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Article

Surveys and the Study of Latin American Politics  

Ryan E. Carlin

To understand Latin American politics, one must view it through the eyes and minds of Latin Americans. Since the middle of the 20th century, pollsters in academia, government, and industry have fielded public opinion surveys in an attempt to do just that. Although they are not typically considered political institutions, polls and surveys influence a variety of political processes directly and indirectly thanks to the legitimacy they enjoy among academics, policymakers, and publics. Large strides have been made toward making surveys more methodologically rigorous and toward improving the quality of survey data in the region. Scholars have leveraged the data to advance the theoretical understanding of a range of topics, especially political support, partisanship, and voting behavior. Despite these gains, public opinion surveys face clear challenges that threaten their hard-won legitimacy. To the extent that these challenges are met in the coming decades, public opinion polling’s role in shaping Latin American politics will remain, if not strengthen.

Article

African Attitudes Toward Same-Sex Relationships, 1982–2018  

Kim Yi Dionne and Boniface Dulani

One significant barrier to sexual minority rights in Africa is the generally negative attitudes ordinary Africans have toward same-sex relationships. Yet since 1998, there has been notable progress in terms of legalizing same-sex relationships on the continent, with Botswana the most recent African country to do so, in 2019. Botswana joins Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, Seychelles, and South Africa, among countries that have decriminalized same-sex relationships. Publicly available cross-national survey data measuring citizen’s attitudes toward homosexuality in 41 African countries from 1982 to 2018 shows that, on average, Africans hold negative attitudes toward same-sex relationships, which is consistent with previous reports. However, there is variation in these attitudes, suggesting greater tolerance of sexual minorities among women, people who use the Internet more frequently, and urban residents. One key finding is that homophobia is not universal in Africa. In light of recent policy and legal developments advancing sexual minority rights, and given findings in existing scholarship highlighting the influence politicians have in politicizing homophobia, the literature questioning the generalized notion of a “homophobic Africa” is growing, and there are calls for more research on the factors influencing decriminalization.

Article

Attitudes Toward LGBT People and Rights in Africa  

Jocelyn M. Boryczka

Capturing the nuanced attitudes toward LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people and rights in Africa involves examining them from within and outside the African context. Constructions of the entire African continent as holding negative attitudes toward LGBT peoples and denying them any rights remain quite commonplace across the Global North. However, closer analysis of specific nation-states and regions complicates our understanding of LGBT people and rights in Africa. Advances in the global study of LGBT attitudes through tools such as the Global LGBTI Inclusion Index and the Global Acceptance Index survey African peoples’ beliefs about LGBT communities. These measures locate African attitudes about LGBT peoples within a comparative context to decenter assumptions and many inaccurate, often colonialist, constructions. Attitudinal measures also expose the gap between legislation securing formal rights and the beliefs driving peoples’ everyday practices. These measures further specify how African governments can, often in response to Western political and economic forces, leverage homophobia on a national level to serve their interests despite a misalignment with the population’s attitudes toward LGBT peoples. Nongovernmental organizations and advocates raise awareness about LGBT rights and issues to impact socialization processes that shape these attitudes to generate political, social, and economic change. A rights-based approach and research on attitudes emerging from the African context represent shifts critical to better understanding how LGBT peoples and rights can be more effectively advanced across the continent.

Article

Coming Out and Political Attitudes Among Sexual Minorities  

Douglas Page

A nascent body of research is growing on the issue of disclosing one’s sexuality, also termed “coming out,” and the implications for attitudes, behavior, and health. This research engages (a) the political attitudes of those reporting their sexual identity, and (b) the social conditions that lead people to express different forms of sexual identity. Four main findings help to characterize the relationship between coming out and political attitudes among sexual minorities. First, people who come out tend to be socially liberal, but the reasons behind this pattern remain unclear. Second, tolerant social conditions correlate with coming out; expressions of tolerant attitudes; and political engagement on behalf of lesbian, gay, and bisexual rights. Third, the reverse holds as well: Intolerant, homophobic social conditions correlate with the concealment of one’s homosexuality and the expression of homophobic attitudes. Fourth, homophobic social conditions also may lead to worse mental health outcomes, which in turn reduce political efficacy and participation. However, the causal relationships between social conditions, coming out, political outcomes, and health outcomes elude existing research. Future research can unpack these relationships and include more cases outside Western Europe and North America, where most research on this topic is conducted.

Article

Eritrea: The Everyday Politics of Mass Militarization  

Jennifer Riggan

Eritrea has a long history as a heavily militarized nation, dating back to its 30-year war for independence from Ethiopia. Militarization is a core component of Eritrean nationalism and state formation, which is arguably forged out of war but is also implicated in Eritrea’s problematic human rights record. Following Eritrea’s 1991 independence, the country was poised to democratize and liberalize. At that time, the country also began an intensive process of nation-building of which militarization was a central part. In 1995, Eritrea introduced the national service program. Eritrea’s national/military service, which requires 6 months of military training and 12 months of free military or civil service for all Eritreans (male and female), initially enjoyed widespread public support although there were always concerns about harsh living and labor conditions. In 1998, a border war with Ethiopia broke out. At this time, those who had military training in national service were recalled. Although fighting ended in 2000, the border war deepened Eritrea’s adherence to militarization as a key strategy of national defense, nation-building, and development. A condition of no-peace, no-war followed the border war. The long period of no-war, no-peace with Ethiopia allowed Eritrea’s president, Isaias Afewerki, to consolidate his power, deepen authoritarian rule, and extend the national service program indefinitely. The indefinite extension of national service meant that conscripts were not demobilized and new recruits into national service could not be assured that they would ever be released. Due to the indefinite extension of military service, harsh conditions in the military, and extreme punishments for those who try to escape the military, Eritrea’s national/military service requirement is at the center of concern about human rights and civil liberties in Eritrea. Militarization has since become fused with state control and punishment, leading to human rights and civil liberties violations and the mass flight of close to half a million Eritreans over the past decades. Despite the announcement in summer of 2018 that Eritrea and Ethiopia had finally agreed to peace, no one has been released from the military and Eritreans continue to flood out of the country to avoid national service conditions which have been equated with slavery.

Article

Legislative and Judicial Politics of LGBT Rights in the European Union  

Uladzislau Belavusau

Since the 1980s, the law of the European Union (EU) has become a substantial transnational source of political empowerment for LGBT actors in Europe. The Rome Treaty (1957), which established the European Economic Community, contained a gender equality clause. In the 1990s, this provision was used to protect employment rights of intersex individuals via litigation schemes based on EU law. Yet the subsequent attempts to push forward a similar legal protection for gay and lesbian equality at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), based on the EU sex-equality clause, failed. Since then, the position of the LGBT community in EU legislative politics has evolved significantly through two dimensions. First, the Amsterdam Treaty (1997) extended the number of grounds protected against discrimination in EU law, adding sexual orientation, among others, to this palette. The Amsterdam Treaty permitted the EU Council to adopt the Framework Equality Directive 2000/78/EC, an instrument of secondary Union law that has safeguarded minimum standards of protection against homophobia in relation to matters of employment in all member states. This framework EU legislation has been used by LGBT litigants in their fight for equal working opportunities and pension rights at the CJEU. Second, the introduction of EU citizenship by virtue of the Maastricht Treaty (1992) and the respective secondary law (the EU Citizenship Directive 2004/38/EC) have paved the way for status recognition of same-sex spouses in the member states that have not previously recognized same-sex partnership or marriage. The future of LGBT legislative politics and the LGBT community in Europe will largely depend on whether EU law is able to extend protection beyond the current confines of the employment area, broaden its scope to cover social dimensions such as health and education, and fully recognize same-sex marriages and partnerships throughout the EU.

Article

Theoretical Perspectives on LGBTQ Movements  

Jyl Josephson

The field of empirical scholarship on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) political and social movements that developed in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century has much to contribute to analysis of these movements and their political and cultural contexts. Empirical studies have examined LGBTQ movements in comparison to other types of social movements, finding similarities and alliances as well as distinctive elements. We have learned how LGBTQ movements operate in different global and local contexts, as well as how they interact with different kinds of political systems. Scholars have studied how broader social attitudes have evolved and responded to LGBTQ movements, and the way that backlash to these movements operate in different times and places. At the same time, the theoretical literature that grounds and interprets these studies contributes not just to the epistemology of social movements, but to understandings of the purposes of social and political theorizing. Scholars have examined the utility of different frameworks for understanding social movement organizing, such as the use of civil rights, human rights, and sexual citizenship frameworks. Scholars from the social sciences and humanities have at times brought different theoretical approaches to bear on our understanding of LGBTQ movements, evident in different perspectives regarding the theory of homonationalism. Among the exciting intellectual developments of the late 20th and early 21st century is the burgeoning field of trans studies and trans theory, of social and political theory informed by Global South and Indigenous perspectives, and from the queer of color critique literature.

Article

LGBTQ Politics in Media and Culture  

Thomas J. Billard and Larry Gross

As the primary vector by which society tells itself about itself, popular media transmit ideas of what behavior is acceptable and whose identities are legitimate, thereby perpetuating and, at times, transforming the social order. Thus, media have been key targets of LGBT advocacy and activism and important contributors to the political standing of LGBT people. Of course, media are not a monolith, and different types of media inform different parts of society. Community media have been an important infrastructure through which gays and lesbians and, separately, transgender people formed shared identities and developed collective political consciousness. Political media, such as newspapers, news websites, and network and cable television news broadcasts, inform elites and the mass public alike, making them an important influence on public opinion and political behavior. Entertainment media, such as television and film, cultivate our culture’s shared values and ideas, which infuse into the public’s political beliefs and attitudes. Generally speaking, the literature on LGBTQ politics and the media is biased toward news and public affairs media over fictional and entertainment media, though both are important influences on LGBTQ citizens’ political engagement, as well as on citizens’ public opinion toward LGBTQ rights and their subsequent political behaviors. In the case of the former, media—particularly LG(BT) community media—have played an important role in facilitating the formation of a shared social and then political identity, as well as fueling the formation of, first, separate gay and lesbian and transgender movements and then a unified LGBTQ movement. Moreover, digital media have enabled new modes of political organizing and exercising sociopolitical influence, making LGBTQ activism more diverse, more intersectional, more pluralistic, and more participatory. In the case of the latter, (news) media representations of LGBTQ individuals initially portrayed them in disparaging and disrespectful ways. Over time, representations in both news and entertainment media have come to portray them in ways that legitimate their identities and their political claims. These representations, in turn, have had profound impacts on public opinion toward LGBTQ rights and citizens’ LGBTQ-relevant voting behavior. Yet, the literature on these representations and their effects overwhelmingly focuses on gays and lesbians at the expense of bisexual and transgender people, and this work is done primarily in U.S. and Anglophone contexts, limiting our understanding of the relationships between LGBTQ politics and the media globally.

Article

Mobilizing the Invisible: Power and Marginality in the Black LGBTQ Community  

Ravi K. Perry and Aaron D. Camp

Symbolic and structural inequities that seek to maintain White supremacy have sought to render Black LGBTQ Americans invisible in the body politic of powerful institutions that govern society. In the face of centuries-long oppression at the hands of the state, Black LGBTQ Americans have effectively mobilized to establish visibility on the national policymaking agenda. Members of this community have demonstrated a fierce resilience while confronting a violent anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ mainstream agenda narrative in media and politics. This sociopolitical marginalization—from members of their shared demographic, or not, is often framed in partisan or ideological terms in public discourse and in the halls of American political institutions. Secondary marginalization theory and opinion polling frame how personal identity and social experience shape the Black LGBTQ political movement’s expression of what participation in politics in the United States ought to earn them in return. Double-consciousness theory contextualizes the development of Black LGBTQ sociopolitical marginalization in the United States and the community’s responsive mobilization over time—revealing the impact of coalition building and self-identification toward establishing political visibility necessary to improve the lived conditions of the multiply oppressed.

Article

Direct Democracy and Political Decision Making  

Shaun Bowler, Reagan Dobbs, and Stephen Nicholson

Direct democracy in the United States is the process whereby voters decide the fate of laws, through either an initiative or a referendum. Initiatives allow voters to approve or reject a policy proposal, whereas referendums permit voters to decide the fate of laws passed by the legislature. Although some high-profile ballot measures, especially those related to ‘moral’ issues, may induce people to vote, most ballot measures are unfamiliar to voters and so have a limited effect on participation. Rather than mobilizing voters, the more choice confronting voters faced with ballot measures is whether to “roll-off” or abstain from voting on them. The subsequent decision, how to vote, is intimately related to the decision over whether to vote and is largely motivated by the same factors. In deciding whether and how to vote, voters must know what a ballot measure is about, discern the political motivation underlying it, and match that information to their political predispositions to cast a Yes or No vote; otherwise they abstain. The more voters know about a given proposition, the more likely it is that they will vote and, furthermore, that the vote they do cast will reflect their underlying political values. In contrast both to the claims made by many critics of direct democracy and, also, some current studies in political science, votes in direct democracy are often underpinned by substantive, policy-based considerations. Voters are thus capable of meaningfully participating in the direct democracy process.