New Generation Data Solutions to Understand True Attitudes toward Global LGBTI Human Rights

Why are LGBTI people being persecuted in so many parts of the world?

Imagine if you could ask people across the whole world what they really think, and imagine that they were to answer with brutal honesty and complete anonymity, about an issue that is a criminal offense in huge swaths of the world and is highly divisive and politically charged.

In 2016, RIWI, a global survey technology and data firm, partnered with ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) to conduct the largest global study on attitudes towards LGBTI people. Over 96,000 respondents provided their real opinions on LGBTI people, marriage equality, gender and sexuality expression, and human rights.

This breakthrough collaborative study was particularly special since by using RIWI’s Random Domain Internet Technology (RDIT™) the project team was able to conduct the survey in 65 countries, including in many which criminalize same-sex activity with imprisonment, stoning or even death. Critically, citizens were able to provide their responses voluntarily, anonymously and securely. A study of this magnitude, on this topic or on other sensitive social and related policy issues, would not be possible using traditional research methods where in-person participants are usually very unwilling to come forward due to fear of persecution and ostracism.

Initial findings from the Global Attitudes Survey show that sentiment toward the LGBTI community has emerged as more favourable over the past five years across the world, but the findings reinforce that acceptance is far from a reality in dozens of countries around the world. Some interesting findings include:

  • 34% of respondents say that their opinion on LGBTI people has become more favourable in the last 5 years. 67% of respondents think that human rights should be applied to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. 43% of respondents from the African continent believe that being a sexual minority, transgender or intersex person should be illegal.
  • 68% of respondents answered that they would be very or somewhat upset if their child said they were in love with someone of same gender (when gender is defined in the legacy binary sense of only ‘man’ and ‘woman’).
  • 36% of respondents in Asia, 34% in Latin America, and 21% in the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe support marriage equality.
  • 41% of respondents from the Middle East and North Africa agree that companies should be allowed to fire LGBTI employees on the grounds of their sexuality or gender expression.

While the findings demonstrate that attitudes toward the LGBTI community are slowly becoming more favourable, the study also reveals that acceptance and equal rights are far from a reality in numerous countries around the world.

The data collected by RIWI and ILGA are proving to be vital in developing tools for advocacy, planning and funding of sexual orientation and gender identity movements, and are helping move LGBTI discussions away from the ‘anecdotal’ to the ‘actual’, through facilitating actions based on credible global evidence.

Attitudes toward the LGBTI community is just one of many issues where the global NGO and development communities are increasingly looking toward tapping into innovations in global citizen data and new insight generation in order to support data-driven and evidence-based policy making, measurement and evaluation, and citizen engagement initiatives.

Global social research is clearly one area where the global market research and Big Data industries are situated to not only ‘do well’, but also ‘do good’.

By Eric Meerkamper, Global Head, Citizen Engagement, RIWI Corp.

RIWI ( is a global survey technology and sentiment measurement firm that captures opinion in any country and region in the world using its patented Random Domain Intercept Technology™ (RDIT).