DP14309 Do Laws Shape Attitudes? Evidence from Same-Sex Relationship Recognition Policies in Europe

Author(s): Cevat Giray Aksoy, Christopher S. Carpenter, Ralph de Haas, Kevin Tran
Publication Date: January 2020
Date Revised: January 2020
Keyword(s): LGB attitudes, Public Opinion, Same-sex relationship recognition policies
JEL(s): K36, Z1
Programme Areas: Public Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14309

Understanding whether laws shape or simply reflect citizens' attitudes is important but empirically difficult. We provide new evidence on this question by studying the relation between legal same-sex relationship recognition policies (SSRRPs) and attitudes toward sexual minorities in Europe. Using data from the European Social Surveys covering 2002-2016 and exploiting variation in the timing of SSRRPs across countries, we show that legal relationship recognition is associated with statistically significant improvements in attitudes toward sexual minorities. These effects are widespread across demographic groups but are consistently larger for more conservative groups in countries with less gender equality. Our results suggest that laws can exert a powerful influence in shaping societal attitudes.