Following the "Rainbow Road" to LGBT Pride in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.

Following the "Rainbow Road" to LGBT Pride in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. 

As Donald Trump campaigned for the White House in 2016, polls showed 19–25 percent of Americans said they’d consider moving to Canada if he won.

Surveys put that percentage even higher among LGBT voters.

But perhaps LGBT Americans should have been looking to move to Iceland, the Netherlands or Sweden, places that rank No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 on the Global Acceptance Index. Canada ranks higher than the United States but not by far, though the rating is based on data from before Trump took the White House.

The Global Acceptance Index was created to measure LGBT acceptance and inclusion and its effects. UCLA’s Williams Institute recently released a series of studies that include rankings of 141 countries on their level of social acceptance of LGBT people and rights since 1980. 

Acceptance, in the studies, refers to social beliefs about LGBT people, as well as the prevailing opinion about laws and policies that protect — or harm — LGBT people.

In the study “Polarized Progress: Social Acceptance of LGBT People in 141 Countries, 1981 to 2014,” the researchers documented increased acceptance in 80 countries, a decline in 46 and no statistical change in 15.

The most accepting countries were Iceland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Andorra — a tiny, independent principality situated between France and Spain.

A second study released by the Williams Institute was titled “Examining the Relationship between Social Acceptance of LGBT People and Legal Inclusion of Sexual Minorities.”

Here, the researchers found that democracies with a commitment to a free press and the rule of law had the strongest relationship between acceptance and inclusion.

The relationship is weaker in states with autocracies.

A third study looked at links between acceptance, legal protections and economic performance. Generally, LGBT people are economically better off in places where they are guaranteed rights.

In this study, the researchers were able to associate higher Gross Domestic Product in countries with LGBT legal rights.

Two key findings:

• Having one additional legal right was associated with an increase in a country’s GDP of $1,694 per capita.

• An increase of just one point on the Global Acceptance Index was associated with an increase in GDP of $1,506 per capita.

“Programs that reduce violence, stigma and discrimination against LGBT people and policies that enhance access to education and health care will allow LGBT people the opportunity to realize their full economic potential, which will benefit the overall economy,” said Williams Institute researcher M.V. Lee Badgett.


Measuring progress

The Global Acceptance Index generates important data that allows scholars to track LGBT progress globally.

“Very few surveys … provide sufficient data for global, cross-national comparisons of public opinion about LGBT people and rights,” said Andrew R. Flores, a visiting scholar at the Williams Institute, a think tank that focuses on public policy regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The Global Acceptance Index provides a consistent and comparable way to measure attitudes and attitude change, which could help us better understand the impact of LGBT inclusion in social, economic and political life,” he said.

The Global Acceptance Index was created by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law and its international collaborators in the LGBTI Global Development Partnership — a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership.



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