Attitudes to homosexuals in Russia: content, structure, and predictors
Despite the growth of negative attitudes to homosexuals in Russia the research into this topic has been extremely scarce. Based on the analysis of social discourse, we have created a pool of items and undertaken three empirical studies aimed to develop and validate the Russian Attitudes to Homosexuals Inventory (RAHI) and investigate the associations of homophobic attitudes with a range of demographic and psychological variables. In Study 1 we used an online sample (N = 1,007) and explored the structure of the item pool, finding 8 factors, 5 of which referred to different dimensions of perceived threat of homosexuals (to individuals, morals, society, Russian culture, and heterosexual lifestyle) and 3 described social strategies directed at homosexuals (criminal punishment, medical treatment, and discrimination vs. protection). The scales were highly reliable (α = .82-.91) and formed a single second-order dimension, labelled general index of homophobia. Negative attitudes to homosexuals were stronger in males, religious respondents, and those heterosexuals who denied having experienced any feelings of same-sex attraction in their life. In Study 2 (paper-based sample, N = 292) we cross-validated the second-order structure of the RAHI. Using hierarchical multiple regression we found that homophobia was positively predicted by authoritarianism and negatively predicted by experience of same-sex attraction and social contact with homosexuals as friends. We also found weaker positive associations of homophobia with religiosity, social identification with gender, masculinity, extraversion, and social desirability, as well as a negative association with openness. In Study 3 we used contrast groups of neutral and anti-homosexual online community members (N = 330 and N = 107) to check the criterion validity of the RAHI. The findings are in line with the existing body of research from other countries, but reveal the culturally-specific features of the content of Russian homophobia (e.g., homosexuality is viewed as a result of Western influence). The RAHI emerged as a valid and reliable tool, which can be used for future Russian-language studies.