Cross-cultural correlates of homophobia: comparison of Italian and Spanish attitudes towards homosexuals

Enrico Perilli, Eleonora Scosta, Matteo Perazzini, Dina Di Giacomo, Roberta Ciuffini, Danilo Bontempo, Simona Marcotullio, Stefano Cobianchi


Background: Homophobia or the reaction against homosexuals could be based on the structural ideology of the society, on its institutions or on power relationships, which can incite contempt, sometimes even to deadly violence, regarding those not complying the national culture reference model. Such behaviors are born from the belief that homosexuality must be fought against and opposed as it threatens social order, and could be increased augmented by the campaigns of politicians spread in the mass media.

Methods: The aim of this study is to investigate and compare homophobia in Italy and Spain, two Mediterranean countries related from a cultural and traditional background and for general acceptance of homosexuals, and to verify the role of current national culture on recently rising homophobic attitude. Italian and Spanish subjects were studied by means of self-administered questionnaires consisting of: Modern Homophobia Scale to evaluate homophobic attitudes, Homophobia Scale to evaluate the affective, cognitive and behavioral components towards homosexuality, Stereotype Content Model to identify stereotypes about homosexuality, the scale of 11 Emotions and the subscale of Prejudice Attitude Test assessing the social distance, to assess the prejudicial behavior across the two countries.

Results: Results showed that despite homophobia levels are low for both populations, with positive emotion and stereotype, Italians showed a greater social distance and a lower quantity and quality of contacts with homosexuals than Spanish. Comparing for political orientation, ideological right-flaw Italians resulted in significantly higher personal discomfort, aggressiveness and cognitive negativism, and lower quantity of contacts than Spanish. Social distance was higher scored in right-flaw than left-flaw oriented subjects from both Italy and Spain, with Italians scoring higher than Spanish. An alternative interpretation of homophobic attitude in Italy, known for recently rising attempts to homosexuals, was provided in comparison with Spain. Political orientation could provide for the differences observed in social distance in each country, but not between them. Specifically, this study’s results indicate that genderist and homophobic campaigns from the Italian right parties could have transmitted values and attitudes of greater prejudice and rejection towards homosexuals.

Conclusions: This research contributes to the objective of raising awareness about the mechanisms underlying the homophobic matrix conveyed from national culture, politics and mass media, and its consequences on psycho-social disease.


Homophobia; Gay; Lesbian; Homosexual; Stereotypes.

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