The last few decades witnessed a dramatic change in public opinion towards gay people. The paper presented in this Mannheim Applied Seminar shows that this process was initiated by a sharp increase in the approval of same-sex relationships in 1992-'93, following the debate on whether gay people could serve openly in the military. Using a difference-in-difference empirical strategy, the authors study the hypothesis that the greater salience of gay-related issues during this period initiated a process of cultural change. They show that greater exposure to the gay population, measured in a variety of ways, led to a greater increase in approval. These results, the authors demonstrate, cannot be explained by the popular view that the increased acceptance of same-sex relationships reflected expanding liberalism and civil liberties.
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