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Does Visibility Actually Help? : Televised Popular Culture and Support For LGBT Rights

Searcy, David
While public opinion has changed quickly with respect to LGBT rights explanations for this change have focused more on demographic as opposed to cultural reasons. This study used both quantitative, large-n analyses of both collected data on television programs and a newly created survey as well as a qualitative study of the impact of televised popular culture on legislative action. The goal of the study is to determine whether or not LGBT characters in televised popular culture have had a statistically significant impact on public opinion in the LGBT rights debate. The study finds evidence that both over the history of LGBT characters on television and today, visibility of LGBT individuals in popular culture has a statistically significant impact on public opinion dealing with LGBT rights. This study also finds some evidence that visibility in popular culture has actually been more significant to legislative bodies' responsiveness than public opinion has. This study therefore concludes that future research on LGBT rights should take into consideration the effect that culture has had in the evolving debate and political scientists in general should consider culture more as a driving force in motivating political change.