Reputation survey: Media attitudes towards homosexuality

The Sun splashed on X Factor winner Joe McElderry coming out, but new research shows that the general public does not consider items on sexuality to be newsworthy any more.

The Sun may have been proud of its front-page scoop outing X Factor winner Joe McElderry on 31 July, but the general public seems to think the singer's sexuality is far from breaking news.

Nearly 50 per cent of the 3,000 respondents to PRWeek/OnePoll's latest survey said sexuality was no longer newsworthy, while a further 37 per cent said they had already assumed McElderry was gay. Just five per cent said they considered the story to be 'news'.

As showbiz journalist turned PRO Rav Singh points out below, the public is very media-savvy, with 49 per cent believing the timing of McElderry's announcement was planned by his PR team. A further 37 per cent said the announcement was a result of The Sun gathering evidence to prove the singer was gay - just 13 per cent believed the announcement was spontaneous.

On the wider issue of whether or not sexuality was newsworthy, 51 per cent said it was not. However, 44 per cent said a celebrity coming out as homosexual was news sometimes, for example if the individual concerned had previously portrayed themselves as heterosexual.

Singer Will Young gained the highest public approval of male celebrities who had come through the media, closely followed by Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas.

Despite the apparent open-mindedness of the public, 63 per cent said it would be harder for a sportsman to come out than an actor or singer. And 75 per cent felt the reason there are no openly gay footballers in the UK was because any footballer coming out would get a very homophobic reaction from fans.

Survey of 3,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll


RAVI SINGH, Special projects consultant, The Outside Organisation

In 1999 when Stephen Gately came out, I was the journalist at The Sun who worked with The Outside Organisation on the story. It was a big deal, because people did not really know that PROs and journalists worked together. People are more media-savvy these days and they know stories like this are a PR thing.

The findings about footballers are very interesting. If a gay footballer did come out it, it would be horrendous for him. There is homophobia around football and I believe the player would lose sponsorship deals. It would be a great move for footballers to be able to come out, but even in 2010 I do not think they would be able to - look what happened to Justin Fashanu.

When I saw Gareth Thomas had come out, I thought 'wow'. But I believe rugby supporters are a bit more subdued compared with football fans, who tend to be rowdier and more macho.

- Has your opinion of X Factor winner Joe McElderry changed after his admission through The Sun that he is gay?

Yes - more negative - 5%

Yes - more positive - 7%

No - 88%

- Do you think the timing of McElderry's media announcement was:

The result of The Sun gathering evidence - 37.5%

Entirely spontaneous - 13.5%

Planned by his PR team - 49%


75% of respondents said footballers coming out would get an extremely homophobic response from football fans


70% said it should not be a front-page story if a star comes out


63% said being gay was more accepted if the person was an actor or singer than a sportsman


5% said McElderry coming out was a surprise and therefore newsworthy

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