EU LGBT survey - European Union lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender survey - Main results

In light of a lack of comparable data on the respect, protection and fulfilment of the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, FRA launched in 2012 its European Union (EU) online survey of LGBT persons’ experiences of discrimination, violence and harassment.

The survey results provide valuable evidence of how LGBT persons in the EU and Croatia experience bias-motivated discrimination, violence and harassment in different areas of life, including employment, education, healthcare, housing and other services.

The findings show that many hide their identity or avoid locations because of fear. Others experience discrimination and even violence for being LGBT. Most, however, do not report such incidents to the police or any other relevant authority. By analysing the survey results, this report will assist the EU institutions and Member States in identifying the fundamental rights challenges facing LGBT people living in the EU and Croatia. It can thereby support the development of effective and targeted European and national legal and policy responses to address the needs of LGBT persons and ensure the protection of their fundamental rights.

Access the EU LGBT survey data explorer to view all survey responses >>

Findings Q and A

This is a brief overview of some of the findings. The key findings with relevant graphs and opinions are contained in the ‘At a glance report’. Full findings will be available shortly in the ‘Main results report’. 

1. Why and how was the EU LGBT survey carried out?

FRA conducted an online survey covering discrimination and hate speech against LGBT people, as well as other issues, in all EU Member States and Croatia, following a European Commission request. The survey consisted of large-scale empirical data collection and targeted people in all EU Member States and Croatia, aged 18 or over, who consider themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The anonymous survey was made available online in all 23 official EU languages (except Irish) plus Catalan, Croatian, Luembourgish, Russian and Turkish. FRA designed the survey which was carried out, from April to July 2012 - under contract to FRA following an open call for tender – by Gallup Europe in partnership with ILGA-Europe (European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association(link is external)). ILGA-Europe, the European umbrella organisation representing LGBT civil society organisations, supported the work through its national experts.

The results reflect the experiences of over 93,000 individuals who completed the questionnaire. While the data are not representative of all LGBT people in the EU, this number is a very large group, and is by far the largest collection of empirical information of its kind in Europe to date. As the most wide-ranging and comprehensive survey of reported experiences of LGBT people in the EU and Croatia, it collects a reasonable diversity of opinions, behaviours and attitudes from LGBT groups that allows detailed analysis of the data. More information can be found in the technical report.

2. What questions did the survey ask?

Respondents were asked about their experiences of discrimination, violence and harassment at work, in education, healthcare, social services and in public places such as cafes and restaurants, banks and shops. The questions drew on rights protected under EU law and other international standards. If respondents had experiences to share, further details were asked. The questionnaire also asked respondents about key elements of their daily lives, including their assessment of the public attitudes towards LGBT people, the visibility of LGBT people in public life, and negative reactions from the general public. Transgender people were also asked specific questions on access to transgender-specific healthcare and their experiences in changing the gender marker in official documents.

In addition, the survey collected a large amount of socio-demographic data, such as respondents’ educational background, employment status, relationship and civil status, parental status and income.

3. How common is discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity?

About a half of all respondents said that they had personally felt discriminated against or harassed on the grounds of sexual orientation in the year before the survey. Lesbian women (55%), young respondents (aged 18–24 years) (57%) and those with the lowest incomes (52%) were most likely to say they had personally felt discriminated against or harassed.

One in five of those respondents who were employed and/or looked for work in the year before the survey felt discriminated against. For transgender respondents it was one in three. In every country surveyed, two-thirds of respondents had witnessed negative comments or conduct towards a LGBT colleague while at work.

A third of respondents stated that they felt personally discriminated against because of being LGBT in at least one of the following areas: housing, healthcare, education, social services, and access to goods and services.

4. What was school life like for LGBT students?

During schooling before the age of 18, 2 out of 3 LGBT respondents were hiding or disguising being LGBT at school. At least 60% personally experienced negative comments or conduct at school because they were LGBT while over 80% of all respondents in each LGBT group, and in every country, had witnessed negative comments or conduct because a schoolmate was perceived to be LGBT. Two-thirds said these comments or conduct had occurred often or always during their schooling. Two-thirds also said they often, or always hid or disguised that they were LGBT while at school. This particularly applied to gay and bisexual men.

5. How common is hate crime against LGBT people?

In the last five years, 26% of all respondents had been attacked or threatened with violence. This figure rises to 35% among transgender respondents. Of those who had experienced violence in the past year, 59% said that the last attack or threat of violence happened because they were perceived to be LGBT. In the year before the survey, 19% were victims of harassment which they thought was because they were perceived to be LGBT.
Incidents most often took place outdoors in public places and were perpetrated by more than one person, usually male, whom the victim did not know. However, 7% of the most recent violent incidents in the last year were committed by a member of the victim’s family or household.

About three in 10 of all transgender respondents said they were victims of violence or threats of violence more than three times in the past year.

6. How do LGBT people feel treated by society?

The EU is founded on values of equality and respect yet three-quarters of all LGBT respondents felt that discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation is widespread in the country they live in. Other examples of what it is like to be LGBT include:

  • 48% are open about being LGBT to family members and 28% are open to none or a few of their friends. Just 21% are open to their work colleagues or schoolmates.
  • Almost a half of all respondents believe that offensive language about LGBT people by politicians is widespread in their country of residence.
  • Two-thirds avoid holding hands in public with a same-sex partner for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed for holding hands. This figure is three-quarters among gay and bisexual men respondents.
  • 50% of all respondents avoid certain places for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed because of being LGBT. This particulaly applies to public transport, on the street or in other public places, and in public buildings.
  • Of all groups, transgender respondents are most likely to say that they had personally felt discriminated against or experienced violence.

7. What can be done to improve equality and respect for LGBT people?

EU law protects against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in employment, yet discrimination persists in this area. To counter this, the EU could use several legal and policy tools to develop systematic initiatives to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Equally, Member States should use the survey findings to further develop, implement and monitor relevant policies. EU Member States that have set up specific LGBT action plans or integrated these issues in national human rights action plans can make use of country specific data to further shape their actions.

Equal protection against discrimination across all EU Member States would significantly improve if non-discrimination measures were extended beyond employment. The EU’s proposed ‘horizontal directive’, would extend the principle of equal treatment to cover religion, belief, disability, age and sexual orientation.

As for the school setting, Member States should work towards providing a school environment that is safe and supportive for LGBT youth, free from bullying and exclusion. This includes awareness raising among teachers and students to encourage respect and understanding, and to learn how to approach LGBT issues in class, for example by ensuring that objective information on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression is part of school curricula and teacher training. Governments and schools should also set up and promote anti homophobic and transphobic bullying policies.

According to the findings, LGBT people often do not report instances of discrimination as they believe nothing will change (60% of respondents) or they do not know how or where to report incidents (30%). Only 22% of the most serious hate crime incidents were brought to the attention of the police. Almost half of the respondents who did not report to the police felt the police would do nothing. Such patterns emerge from FRA’s work with other groups (such as minorities and migrants). EU and national law should protect against homophobic and transphobic hate speech and crime. Rights awareness, and the means to report discrimination and hate-motivated violence should be promoted. Member States should also tackle underreporting by supporting equality bodies and other national complaints mechanisms to raise awareness of discrimination and what LGBT people can do. Member States should also train law enforcement officials on how to respond to LGBT issues or encourage civil society organisations to report on behalf of victims. Hate crime data, including noting the motivations behind the crime should also be recorded to help Member States take appropriate action. EU and Member States should also specifically address and make homophobic and transphobic hate speech and hate crime punishable by law.

8. Other FRA work on the rights of LGBT people

FRA began working on the fundamental rights of LGBT people in 2007 following a request by the European Parliament to investigate LGBT discrimination and homophobia in the EU.

Survey Methodology Q and A
This is a brief overview of some key methodological issues as regards the EU LGBT survey. More detailed information can be found in the EU LGBT survey technical report, which also contains the survey questionnaire.

1. Why, when and how was the EU LGBT survey carried out?

FRA conducted an online survey to identify how lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people living in the European Union and Croatia experience the fulfilment of their fundamental rights. The evidence produced by the survey will support the development of more effective laws and policies to fight discrimination, violence and harassment, improving equal treatment across society. The need for such an EU-wide survey became evident after the publication in 2009 of the first FRA report on homophobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, which highlighted the absence of comparable data. The European Commission then requested FRA to collect comparable data across the EU on this issue. FRA organised the data collection in the form of an online survey covering all EU Member States and Croatia. The respondents were persons aged 18 years and over, who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, anonymously. The survey was made available online, from April to July 2012, in all 23 official EU languages (except Irish) plus Catalan, Croatian, Luxembourgish, Russian and Turkish. In total, 93,079 LGBT persons completed the survey. FRA’s inhouse experts designed the survey which was implemented by Gallup, one of the market leaders in large-scale surveys. In addition, civil society organisations including ILGA-Europe (European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) and Transgender Europe (TGEU) provided advice on how to best approach LGBT people.

2. How representative are the results ?

The results reflect the experiences of more than 93,000 individuals who completed the online survey across Europe. The size of the LGBT population or its proportion to the general population is unknown and cannot be identified in population registers or other official statistics. However, although the results cannot be considered as representative of all LGBT people in the EU, they constitute by far the largest collection of empirical evidence of its kind in Europe to date.

3. Why was the survey conducted online?

This methodology was selected after consultation with key experts because it has particular advantages for the purpose of the survey. Online surveys are cost effective and can potentially collect data from a large number of respondents that would be much more costly to contact individually. Online surveys also guarantee anonymity. This allowed a broader spectrum of the LGBT population to be reached compared with more traditional approaches, for example ‘hard-to-reach’ or ‘closeted’ LGBT populations. Full anonymity, privacy and confidentiality, which is guaranteed to the respondents, helped obtain reports of sensitive or negative experiences, such as criminal victimisation. The online survey methodology also helps eliminate bias, which could have been introduced by telephone or face-to-face interview approaches when dealing with very sensitive and personal questions, such as sexual orientation, gender identity or experiences of criminal victimisation.

4. How did EU LGBT survey achieve wide participation of LGBT respondents?

In all EU countries, household internet coverage is high enough to guarantee a broad response among the target group. According to Eurostat, 76 % of households in the EU have internet access and 72 % of all households are connected via broadband, not accounting for other ways of accessing the internet (such as internet cafés and public terminals). This is an important argument in support of online surveys. With access to internet being the only requirement, the survey was able to achieve national coverage of each of the survey countries. Respondents could participate in the survey when and where it was most convenient for them, limiting non-response due to inconvenient timing of interviews.

5. Could someone complete the survey multiple times to influence the results?

Different mechanisms were used to discourage multiple responses from the same person. The length and duration (average 30 minutes) of the survey, combined with the concentration and attention required in completing it, was one element. Moreover, close monitoring of the input process in the different countries was performed to identify and avoid possible efforts of falsification of results. Allowing multiple survey responses from the same internet address (or Internet Protocol, IP), despite the risk of duplication, was an important and deliberate choice, in order to protect confidentiality and anonymity, and to encourage participation also of populations without personal access to internet (for example via internet cafés) or in the same household. Given the large number of responses, a smaller number of double entries would in any case have minimal or unnoticeable effect on the main findings and conclusions. FRA did not trace any falsification efforts. In view of the large number of respondents (93,079), even a minimal influence or distortion of the results would require a massive effort of hundreds of working hours.

6. Which topics were covered by the questionnaire and how was it prepared?

The questionnaire covered a variety of issues linked to the enjoyment of fundamental rights, such as experiences of discrimination, victimisation by violence and harassment, daily life behaviours and perception of public attitudes towards LGBT people, as well as views and awareness about law and policies against discrimination and towards the respect and protection of the fundamental rights of LGBT persons. In developing the questionnaire FRA consulted a multinational panel of experts in the area of scientific research on sexual orientation and gender identity. Furthermore, the questionnaire was extensively discussed with various stakeholder groups and FRA’s own Scientific Committee.

7. Could non-LGBT persons respond?

The objective of the survey was to identify what LGBT people themselves think and experience. Therefore, the survey started with a self-identification question that allowed only those identifying themselves as LGBT to continue. A number of other questions in the questionnaire was also used to filter and secure the participation of LGBT people. Data on the attitudes and views of the general population already exist. For example, Eurobarometer collects data about the general public’s perceptions of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. The analysis of the results in the EU LGBT survey – Main results report compares some Eurobarometer data with the EU LGBT survey results.

8. If the participation of LGBT people in the survey differed from country to country how can you ensure the results are comparable?

In order to correct for any type of under- or overrepresentation of any particular lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender group or nationality in the sample, data weighting was applied to the EU LGBT average. This is a statistical procedure that ensures that the opinions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender respondents from each country are represented proportionally and according to the country’s total population (based on all people living in the country, not only LGBT people – as the number of the latter is not available). In addition, national averages (representing the responses of all LGBT people in the country) were also weighted to correct for the differences in the LGBT composition in the survey countries. The statistical weighting was based on two assumptions: First, that the relative size of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups within the overall LGBT population is similar in all countries and close to the proportions achieved in the survey for EU27 and Croatia overall. Group weights are therefore computed as an average of the share of each group (L, G, B and T) in the total data set across all countries; second, the weighting assumed that the differences in the relative size of the LGBT population over the age of 18 between  the EU Member States and Croatia are equal to the differences in the relative size of the total adult population in each EU Member State and Croatia. Statistical country weights were computed based on Eurostat data.

9. How was the privacy, anonymity and confidentiality of respondents assured?

FRA took several measures to guarantee data security, privacy and confidentiality of the survey respondents. To ensure privacy, the survey did not collect information on individual respondents or their computers (such as IP address) other than what respondents voluntarily provided in the survey questionnaire, and what was necessary for administering the survey. The full respondent web session during the time the online questionnaire was being filled in was protected using internet high security protocols, with no option to access the survey in an unprotected insecure mode. The data collection and the analysis process were performed without any personal or sensitive data capable of identifying persons collected or elaborated guaranteeing full confidentiality of the information provided.