Gay or Homosexual? The Implications of Social Category Labels for the Structure of Mass Attitudes Academic Article uri icon


  • Multiple identity and identification terms are used in social science research on sexuality, including clinical terms such as homosexual and heterosexual and more colloquial terms such as gay and straight. In this article, we show that far from being synonyms, these terms have consequences for attitudes about gay and lesbian rights. We begin by providing a historical overview of the terms homosexual and gay and lesbian, showing the different connotations that social groups have come to associate with these terms. We then analyze a split-ballot experiment embedded in the 2012 American National Election Study (ANES) and show that group identity and authoritarianism shape attitudes toward homosexual rights differently than gay and lesbian rights.

published proceedings

  • American Politics Research

altmetric score

  • 51.764

author list (cited authors)

  • Smith, B. A., Murib, Z., Motta, M., Callaghan, T. H., & Theys, M.

citation count

  • 12

complete list of authors

  • Smith, Brianna A||Murib, Zein||Motta, Matthew||Callaghan, Timothy H||Theys, Marissa

publication date

  • March 2018