In chapters 2 and 3 we will go more into detail about how values are shaped, and how values influence attitudes and behaviour. But let’s start by looking at how values relate to a controversial social attitude: attitudes toward gay people.

Respondents to the ESS survey were asked about the extent to which they agreed with the following statement: “Gay men and lesbians should be free to live their own life as they wish.” There is widespread interest in people’s sexual behaviour around the world. This statement is the subject of heated debate in most countries. Some argue that homosexuality is unnatural and wrong; others see no difference in principle between homosexual and heterosexual love.

Given the emphasis of conformity and tradition values-, which promote conformity to widespread rules and expectations and to traditional norms and avoiding change, it is reasonable to expect these values to predict most strongly an attitude of opposition to gay peoples’ rights to live their life as they wish. Heterosexual family life has been the foundation of virtually all societies, and any deviation from this pattern would therefore appear threatening for people who stress tradition and conformity values.

Figure 1.2. Correlations (Pearson’s r) between “gays should bee free to live as they like” and the ten values. Source: ESS 1


The hypothesis is supported by the correlations reported in figure 1.2. Conformity and tradition values are negatively related to personal freedom for gay people. Further, hedonism and universalism values are positively related to freedom for gay people. This is also a plausible result. Those with hedonistic preferences are concerned about personal pleasures, and universalism values express tolerance and protection of the welfare of all people.

Follow the link to the dataset Human Values and solve the exercises below. The exercises could be solved using data from both ESS 1 and ESS 4. The solutions refer to the results obtained using ESS 1. When you have completed the exercises, either focusing upon 2002 (ESS 1) or 2008 (ESS 4), please investigate if you can say something about change from 2002 to 2008.)

  1. Investigate the frequencies of the variable "Gay men and lesbians should be free to live their own life as they wish". It is important that you use both design and population size weightings. See more about weighting
  2. Compare the different countries’ mean responses on attitudes to gay freedom. Use the design weight. What country differences do you find?
  3. Now choose two countries in which to perform correlation analyses. Subset the data to the first country. Include the gay attitude variable and the ten value variables in a correlation analysis. Remember to use the design weight. Repeat the procedure for your second selected country. Compare the results: Are the correlations significant; are the patterns identical? Also compare the results with the results in Figure 1.2, which gives the correlations with all countries included.
  4. Use the dataset Country level data to solve this exercise.
    It is possible to aggregate the individual level data to country level. In this way, we can create ten value variables that could be used as estimates of the value context in each country. In the country level data, we have included the ten aggregated value variables. These data can be depicted by drawing thematic maps. Create a map that displays the value “hedonism”.

    1. Weight: Click the icon “Weight”. Select the combined weight and press ">", and then "OK". To remove a weight variable, you click the weight icon, then you click on the weight you want to remove and the arrow pointing left (<), then “OK”. Frequency: Click “Table” on the menu. Find the variable in the variable list in the left margin, click the variable and select “Add to row”.

    2. Compare means: Start by removing the population size weight. Click on the country variable and click “Add to row”. Click on the “gay” variable and select “Add as measure”.

    3. Subset: Click on the icon “Subset”. Click the variable “Country” in the left margin and select “Add to subset”. Pick your first country and press “OK” when you are finished.
    Correlation: Click “Analysis” on the menu. Select “Correlation”. Find the “gay” variable and the ten values. Include all these variables in the analysis.

    4. Map: Create a table with country code in the row, and hedonism as measure, and click the icon for map. Change the number of groups to three.