How the media covered the politicians and organizations associated with LGBTQ+ rights

5.17.22 / 4 min read
  • Research: Media Perception of the best and worst performing US governors and organizations ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

  • US governors Abbott, Desantis and Hutchinson Lead in Negative LGBTQ+ Media Sentiment

In light of International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, we used our data to analyze LGBTQ+ media sentiment towards prominent companies and politicians. 

On 17 May 1990, homosexuality was declassified as a mental health disorder by the World Health Organization. Although great progress has been made to achieve equal rights, 32 years later “at least 68 countries have national laws criminalizing same-sex relations between consenting adults,” and seven maintain the death penalty, according to a Human Rights Watch report

A rash of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the US in past months threatens to curb the rights gained over the last two decades. 2021 was a record-breaking year for anti-transgender legislation in the country, with more than 100 bills introduced in 33 states. 

An NBC story on the issue said: “The annual number of anti-LGBTQ bills filed has skyrocketed from 41 bills in 2018 to 238 bills in less than three months of 2022.” According to the same article, about half of the bills proposed this year “target transgender people specifically.”

We examined top-tier media and newspaper coverage across the United States from April 1, 2021 to April 30, 2022, and looked at coverage of US governors and top S&P companies. 

The above chart compares media sentiment on the top 10 US governors who have been most associated with the topic LGBTQ+ over the last 12 months.

Republican governors Greg Abbott (Texas) and Ron DeSantis (Florida) got the worst media sentiment on the topic across top-tier media and newspapers in the United States. In February, Abbott (209 negative pieces) directed child welfare services to investigate parents that provide gender-affirming care to their transgender children for “child abuse.” 

Gov. Ron DeSantis (131 negative pieces) is a potential 2024 presidential candidate. In March, he signed a bill that forbids discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in schools, between kindergarten and third grade. Critics across the country have denounced the law, dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, for marginalizing LGBTQ+ people. 

We also looked into how the top 10 companies in the S&P 500 were covered during the same period.

Amazon received the most negative coverage around LGBTQ+ issues. In July 2021, at least two corporate employees resigned and nearly 500 supported a complaint over the sale of a book they considered anti-LGBTQ+. The company was also dropped as a sponsor for the 2022 Seattle Pride Parade because of its donations to politicians who voted against the Equality Act, which aims to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. On the other hand, the company received positive coverage for being one of the Fortune 500 companies that supported the same bill as a member of the Business Coalition for the Equality Act. 

Apple leads in positive coverage on the topic. The company opposed the Texas transgender “child abuse” policy in an open letter signed by more than 60 organizations. Apple CEO Tim Cook has also repeatedly opposed laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community. 

Several U.S. nonprofit organizations lead the way in positive perception on the topic. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) seeks to end discrimination and bullying of LGBTQ+ students. Over 13,000 educators across the U.S. are part of the GLSEN network. The Trevor Project works on suicide prevention of “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth, and offers free counseling through The Trevor Lifeline, a 24/7 confidential service. GLADD is a media monitoring organization that provides tools and resources to increase online safety of LGBTQ+ users. 

The Lego Group is among the winning organizations, with the best perception on the topic in May 2021. That month, the Danish toy production company announced “Everyone is Awesome”, its first LGBTQ+-themed set. 

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