Iceland, Norway, and the Netherlands have the highest levels of LGBTQ acceptance

New research from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that the average levels of acceptance for LGBTQ people and their rights have increased globally since 1980. Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Canada are the top five most accepting countries, and all have significantly increased their levels of acceptance since 2010.

Using advanced statistical methods and computer modeling, researchers analyzed survey data from 175 countries and geographic locations to produce the Global Acceptance Index (GAI), a measure of the relative level of social acceptance of LGBTI people and rights in each country. Of the countries studied, 56 (32%) have experienced an increase in acceptance since 1980, 62 countries (35%) experienced no change, and 57 (33%) showed a decrease in acceptance.

This report expands the Williams Institute’s 2019 study, Social Acceptance of LGBT People in 174 Countries, to include information about attitudes towards transgender and intersex people.

“Understanding acceptance and rejection of LGBTI people lies at the heart of understanding violence, discrimination, and the many negative consequences that result from exclusion and unfair treatment,” said study author Andrew R. Flores, a visiting scholar at the Williams Institute. “Stigma can affect how individuals view LGBTI people and influence how people view the laws and policies that impact them.”


  • Australia and Oceania, North and South America, and Western Europe have had positive changes in their GAI scores since 1990.
  • Countries have not experienced a uniform change in acceptance of LGBTQ people and rights over time. For example,
    • Brazil, Canada, Great Britain, and the U.S. have all increased their acceptance of LGBTQ people and rights. However, Brazil and the U.S. have experienced a steady increase in acceptance, while Canada and Great Britain appear to have had a faster rate of change.
    • In 2020, China, Iran, and Russia remain less accepting than many other countries. Acceptance in these countries is lower in 2020 than in 1990.
    • Japan and India improved in average LGBTQ acceptance until the mid-2000s. Since then, there has been a slight decline and leveling in LGBTQ acceptance. 

This document was produced as part of the Multi-Donor LGBTI Global Human Rights Initiative (GHRI), a five-year partnership between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Global Affairs Canada, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, Equality Without Borders, the Williams Institute, and Franklin & Marshall College.

Read the report.

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