Do laws shape attitudes? Evidence from same-sex relationship recognition policies in Europe

By Cevat G. Aksoy, Christopher S. Carpenter,  Ralph De Haas and Kevin Tran


A new EBRD Working Paper (number 219)

Do laws shape or simply reflect society’s attitudes? This paper provides new evidence on this question by studying the relationship between legal same-sex relationship recognition policies and attitudes towards sexual minorities in Europe. We show that when relationships are recognised by law, there is a statistically significant increase in favourable attitudes towards sexual minorities. These effects are widespread across demographic groups, emerge only after the policies are adopted, and are not observed for views on other social issues. Our results suggest that laws can exert a powerful influence on societal attitudes.

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