Respectability politics and straight support for LGB rights


Marginalized groups frequently adopt a respectability politics strategy, presenting themselves as adhering to dominant norms to gain public support. The LGBTQ movement, for example, has consciously portrayed same- gender relationships as exemplifying heteronormative values to win over straight Americans. But how effective is this strategy? Two survey experiments show that presenting LGB people as adhering to, or violating, norms of monogamy and exclusivity has null to minimal effects on straight respondents’ views of them or support for their rights. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the effects are moderated by (1) respondents’ political predispositions; or (2) the race, ethnicity, or gender of the LGB people being highlighted. Emphasizing the respectability of same- gender relationships is not as effective as the movement has assumed. More broadly, these results call into question the assumption that highlighting “respectable” members of marginalized groups is an effective way to change public opinion.

Political Research Quarterly 75(4):935–949
Philip Edward Jones
Philip Edward Jones
Associate Professor of Political Science