New York University’s Patrick Egan, an assistant professor in the Wilf Family Department of Politics, will study public attitudes and prejudices toward LGBT issues as they relate to youth as part of a $730,000 grant from the Ford Foundation. Egan and his research colleagues will use the findings to develop messages aimed at changing public attitudes about sexuality and sexual orientation.
The grant is part of the Ford Foundation’s new initiative, “Youth Sexuality, Health, and Rights in the United States: Transforming Public Policy and Public Understanding through Social Science Research.”
Egan will work with researchers at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and MIT’s Sloan School of Management through the Face Value initiative, a nonprofit project of the Tides Center that is affiliated with Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.
“Negative attitudes about sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender expression with regard to young people can have tremendously destructive consequences,” Egan explained. “Ultimately these attitudes can reinforce public policies with regard to youth that continue to make LGBTs second-class citizens.”
“By better understanding these attitudes, we can then identify effective messages—through survey experiments and community-based interventions—that can change existing perceptions for the better.”
The researchers note the pervasiveness of messages that assert sexual orientation, non-normative gender expression, and LGBT people, in particular, pose a threat to children: in efforts to oppose LGBT public policy and advocacy efforts; in mainstream and new media portrayals of actual and fictional LGBT people; and in formal and informal dialogue about issues that touch upon sexuality and gender, from HIV/AIDS policy to the recent priest abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.
In all of these arenas, the researchers maintain, public notions of LGBT people and beliefs about children reinforce social stigma, causing harm to LGBT people and their families, and exposing all children and young people to bullying and other dangerously biased behaviors.
The researchers add that, to date, there has been no coordinated effort to examine and respond to public attitudes, perceptions and prejudices towards LGBT people that are inherently violent—emotionally, physically, and psychologically—and that affect the most vulnerable, namely children and young people.
Egan, an assistant professor in NYU’s Wilf Family Department of Politics, specializes in public opinion, public policy, and their relationship in the context of American politics. He is co-editor of Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy, which was published by Oxford University Press in 2008. Egan served as an assistant deputy mayor of policy and planning for the City of Philadelphia under former Mayor Edward Rendell.