Assistant Professor Wang, Ching-Hsing Department of Political Science, NCKU
*This article is mainly based on our paper entitled “Personality Traits and Individual Attitudes toward Same-Sex Marriage: Evidence from Taiwan” that is accepted for publication in Sexuality Research and Social Policy.
On May 17, 2019, Taiwan’s legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill to make Taiwan the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. The legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan is mainly attributed to the ruling of Constitutional Court on May 24, 2017 that the statutory ban on same-sex marriage in Taiwan’s Civil Code violated both the people’s freedom of marriage as protected by Article 22 and the people’s right to equality as guaranteed by Article 7 of the Constitution. The anti-marriage equality group had attempted to resort to referendums to repeal the Constitutional Court’s ruling and the results of referendums on November 24, 2018 showed that same-sex marriage rights and LGBT-inclusive education in schools were rejected by Taiwanese voters. Nevertheless, the results of referendums failed to overturn legislation of same-sex marriage in Taiwan. While some Taiwanese people are very glad to see that same-sex marriage is finally legalized, it seems that the majority of Taiwanese people are not ready to accept legislation of same-sex marriage given the results of referendums. Furthermore, a survey we conducted immediately after the 2018 local elections also demonstrated that more than half (52.9%) of Taiwanese people do not support legislation of same-sex marriage.
Why do the majority of Taiwanese people hold negative attitudes toward same-sex marriage? Although same-sex marriage has been a particularly salient social issue in recent years in Taiwan, little scholarly attention has been paid to the determinants of individual attitudes toward same-sex marriage. Past studies in the United States and European countries have indicated that the level of personal contact with homosexual people, attitude toward traditional morality, religion, and demographic factors such as education, gender and age have significant influences on public opinion about homosexuality. Different from previous research, we attempted to understand individual attitudes toward same-sex marriage in Taiwan from the perspective of personality. Since personality can shape individuals’ thinking and behavioral patterns and play an important role in individuals’ interactions with other people and reactions to external stimuli, numerous studies have employed personality to examine individual political attitudes and behavior. Besides, it is documented that genetics plays a major role in personality formation and personality is generally stable over the life span. Therefore, scholars have assumed that personality is causally prior to any specific attitudes or behaviors. While there are many different dimensions of personality, psychologists have agreed that individuals’ personalities can be described by five basic dimensions named as the Big Five personality traits which can be summarized as follows: (1) extraversion is the tendency to be energetic and outgoing and seek stimulation and the company of others; (2) agreeableness is the tendency to be compassionate, cooperative, considerate and sympathetic; (3) conscientiousness is the tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; (4) emotional stability is the tendency to be calm, even-tempered, and less likely to feel tense or rattled; and (5) openness to experience is the tendency to be creative, imaginative, curious and open to new ideas.
To examine the relationships between the Big Five personality traits and individual attitudes toward same-sex marriage in Taiwan, we fielded a telephone survey in 2017 after the ruling of Constitutional Court. We found that the trait of agreeableness has a negative effect on support for same-sex marriage. That is, people with higher levels of agreeableness are more likely to oppose same-sex marriage. Besides, conscientiousness and openness to experience have heterogeneous effects on individual attitudes toward same-sex marriage for people of different ages. That is, a higher level of conscientiousness is positively associated with support for same-sex marriage among younger people, but is negatively correlated with support for same-sex marriage among older people. Similarly, a higher level of openness to experience would lead to increased support for same-sex marriage for younger people, but would result in decreased support for same-sex marriage for older people. Overall, we provided empirical evidence that personality as an endogenous factor (i.e., individual psychological factor) could provide some explanatory power for individual attitudes toward homosexual rights.
Some might worry about the above results because personality traits are mainly due to genetic influences and relatively stable over time. That is, once people are high on some personality traits that are linked to negative attitudes toward homosexuals, they might not change their attitudes toward homosexual rights. However, we should not be so pessimistic because people with different personality traits might interact with external environment to change their attitudes toward homosexual rights. Therefore, as social atmosphere changes, people with different personality traits might adjust their attitudes toward homosexuals.
Figure 1. The Effect of Agreeableness on Support for Same-Sex Marriage
Figure 2. The Heterogeneous Effect of Conscientiousness on Support for Same-Sex Marriage by Age
Figure 3. The Heterogeneous Effect of Openness to Experience on Support for Same-Sex Marriage by Age
＊此文內容主要來自於我們發表在Sexuality Research and Social Policy 期刊的論文「Personality Traits and Individual Attitudes toward Same-Sex Marriage: Evidence from Taiwan」。