SINGAPORE: Singaporeans appear to have become more tolerant of gays and lesbians, according to a study by Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

It found that while attitudes remain sharply polarised and predominantly negative, they have shifted slightly to become a little more favourable over a fiveóyear period from 2005.

Even though the change in attitudes is slight, it is significant as it suggests a temporal shift in values and views about homosexuals.

The research team from NTUís Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information polled about 950 adult Singaporeans and permanent residents. The study was published in the Asian Journal of Social Psychology in December 2012, and follows up on an earlier survey in 2005.

Chair of the school, Professor Benjamin Detenber, who led the research team, said when results from both surveys were compared, Singaporeansí attitudes towards homosexuals appear to have shifted more positively.

"Taken together, the results show a small but significant trend towards greater tolerance of homosexuals," he said.

In 2010, 64.5 per cent of respondents held negative attitudes towards homosexuals ó lower than the 68.6 per cent in 2005. The number of those who had positive attitudes rose ó from 22.9 per cent in 2005 to 25.3 per cent in 2010.

More respondents took a neutral stand ó 10.2 per cent were neutral in 2010, compared with 8.5 per cent in 2005.

"Clearly, public opinion is still highly polarised on this issue, but slightly more people are sharing the middle ground in 2010 compared to 2005," said Prof Detenber.

The study found that older people tend to have more negative attitudes towards lesbians and gays, as do those with lower levels of education and income.

On the other hand, people who feel it is less important to conform to social norms and those with a more Western cultural orientation tend to have less negative attitudes and be more accepting of homosexuals. It found that people with higher levels of education and freethinkers tend to have more positive attitudes.

Those who had higher interpersonal contact with gay men and lesbians, and watched more films and television shows with homosexual characters were also likely to express more positive attitudes and to show greater acceptance.

ó CNA/ac