Are Gay Men and Lesbians in the South the New “Threat”? Regional Comparisons of the Contact Theory

Jay Barth, L. Marvin Overby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


While we have shown that increased contact with gay men and lesbians does positively alter attitudes toward that group in the United States, these findings may not hold for the American South. First, a long series of analyses of racial politics in the region have shown that, contrary to the contact theory, white southerners' attitudes towards African-Americans are actually inversely related to the percentage of blacks in their community. Second, the demise in explicit race baiting in the South's politics has been met by an increase in gay baiting in Southern campaigns. We conclude that the South is indeed distinctive in the manner in which contact with gay men and lesbians operates as a social phenomenon. While non-southerners respond to increased contact with gays and lesbians with warmer attitudes, this is not true in the Southern states. Moreover, other findings suggest that this regional disparity is likely to increase in the future and suggest that gay and lesbian activists must take regional differences into account as they develop strategies for creating change in public policies related to sexual orientation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)452-470
Number of pages19
JournalPolitics and Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'Are Gay Men and Lesbians in the South the New “Threat”? Regional Comparisons of the Contact Theory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this