IN THE LATEST Ipsos poll for OKO.press, we checked what Poles think about the rights of rainbow families. While support for civil partnerships and marital equality is steadily rising, LGBT parenthood is still accepted the least.

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Polish surveys usually focus on examining attitudes to what is abstract in Polish terms, namely ‘adoption by homosexual couples’. When we asked the question about the award of the right of adoption to a female or male couple in August 2019, one in four and one in five respondents respectively were in favour. Support for adoption has never been higher before or since (e.g. in the CBOS survey in 2021, only 16% of Poles were in favour of adoption by same-sex couples). Although we had a much higher result in 2019, we suspected that reality was still eluding us in our research.

The realities of rainbow families

As transpires from a report by the Campaign Against Homophobia conducted in 2010, the majority of children growing up in rainbow families in Poland are biological children of LGBT people. These are mainly children from previous heteronormative relationships. However, today increasingly more people are choosing to have children while already in same-sex relationships.

The key issue is therefore not the right to adopt, but the adoption of the partner’s child or the State’s recognition of the parenthood of both parents. The question of adoption diverts attention from the real problems and real dramas.

Many Poles who decide to have a child as emigrants have problems obtaining a PESEL number and confirming Polish citizenship of their children. There are even those who try in Western countries to obtain refugee status for their child, to be able to have health insurance or the right to have temporary documents.

Couples who stay in Poland are condemned to live in a legal vacuum. Only one parent is entered into the documents, which means that, in the eyes of the law, the other parent is a stranger. The other parent has no access to medical records, is unable to deal with administrative matters and has no rights to custody after the death of the partner. Additionally, he or she may find it difficult to travel with the child, not to mention the constant need to explain his or her family situation at the nursery school, school or doctor’s surgery.

The survey question about ‘adoption’ can also reinforce stereotypical views and prejudices. Adoption is associated with ‘obtaining’ a child and can create an association, for example, with Jarosław Kaczyński’s homophobic cry from the election campaign in March 2019: ‘stay away from our children!’

Half the respondents are in favour of equal rights, but...

This time, we at OKO.press asked a different question about attitudes to homosexual parenthood. Additionally, the new question had two versions.

In the first, we asked generally whether same-sex couples should have the same rights to raise a child as heterosexual couples. 36% of respondents answered in the affirmative.

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In the second version, we preceded the question with some brief information: ‘There are already single-sex couples raising a child together in Poland’. And it goes on unchanged: ‘Should they have the same rights to raise a child as heterosexual couples?’.

This is because it arises from the estimates of the Campaign Against Homophobia from 12 years ago that at least 50,000 kids were already being brought up then in rainbow families. The information that same-sex couples are already parents, even if not recognized by Polish law, appeared to have an influence on the result.

The acceptance of equal rights increased to 48%. There were the same number of opponents.

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Poles still do not know that rainbow families exist

Such results show that if we stop talking about LGBT people in abstract language, support for the recognition of their rights increases. The person being questioned moves from abstract ideological rules to what he or she imagines about concrete people, which makes rejection in the name of, for example, ‘Christian values’ give way to empathy. In the same way, prejudice (not only homophobic prejudice) weakens when a person gets to know a concrete individual from a discriminated group.

In 2021, a similar experiment was conducted by Stowarzyszenie Milość Nie Wyklucza [English: ‘Love Does Not Exclude’ Association]. At that time, it transpired that 56% of respondents would agree to a same-sex couple marrying to ensure the safety of their children – for example, to avoid them being taken into a children’s home when the biological parent dies. 29% of respondents were against.

It also transpired from the survey that most Poles are not particularly attached to the narrow Catholic definition of the family. 64% of Poles believed that a biological parent raising a child together with a same-sex partner could be considered a family. 71% agreed that, when assessing parenthood, gender and orientation do not matter, because a good parent is one who gives the child love, security and support.

Why is there such a drastic difference between the CBOS surveys, and our earlier poll?

One of the main barriers to the recognition of the rights of rainbow families in Poland is the lack of awareness and knowledge. It arises from the Love Does Not Exclude survey that one in four respondents does not know whether there are single-sex couples raising children in Poland at all, while almost 20% were sure there aren’t any. Most people equate rainbow parenting with the West, and many of them (58%) believe that the consequences of raising children in such families are still unknown.

Prejudice is in second place, the source of which is not so much a lack of knowledge, but political polarization and the vilification of LGBT people. When the ‘Love Does Not Exclude’ Association asked questions about whether gays and lesbians should be parents, 46% of respondents answered in the affirmative. 37% were against.

What hinders emancipation is, therefore, the strong emotive and contentious language. Formulations, such as ‘same-sex couples’ or ‘rainbow family’ do not evoke such negative associations as ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’ or ‘homosexual couple’.

The way the respondents view this can therefore be changed very easily. All it takes to trigger a homophobic reflex is to choose words that automatically transfer the emphasis from the ‘family’ story, to the ‘ideological’ one, from the ‘personal’ story, to the ‘abstract’ one.

The most sceptical: the oldest and PiS voters

Wanting to be closer to life, we shall analyse the detailed results of our survey in the variant of the question in which we state that rainbow families exist in Poland.

Young women are the most accepting. In the 19–39 age group, as many as 69% were in favour of equality in parenthood. Young men did not fare too badly either; 50% of them gave their support for rainbow families. However, this is still a big difference, which – between young women and men – can be seen in all OKO.press polls measuring attitudes to polarizing social phenomena.

Age has the greatest influence on attitudes to LGBT people. This is probably not only because of a conservative upbringing, but also the closeness of experience which arises from greater openness to otherness (including through popular culture or social media).

Older people probably still consider rainbow parenthood to be Elton John ‘buying’ children from a surrogate, namely a Western fad.

Among the 60+ people, support for the recognition of rainbow families is greater than the results of the classic questions on adoption. 35% of respondents are in favour, 61% against.

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As usual, westernized major cities are the most open. In metropolitan areas with more than 500,000 inhabitants, almost 3/4 of the population (72%) would want equal rights to be granted to same-sex couples.

But even in the more conservative small towns or villages, the result is surprisingly good – 42% in favour, 54% against.

Attitudes to LGBT people in Poland have strong party colours. It is mainly PiS voters who are opponents of the recognition of the rights of rainbow families. The denial of equality is 6.5 times higher (84% to 13%) than agreement to equality. This is the result of a combination of socio-economic factors (PiS voters are older, less educated, from smaller towns), but there is probably also a trace of homophobia cultivated for electoral purposes by PiS politicians (as well as by President Duda).

Of all the respondents other than the ruling party’s electorate, 58% are in favour of granting rights to same-sex couples, while 37% are against. And this is despite the fact that support is brought down by Konfederacja voters – two out of three people are against.

Civic Coalition and Left voters think alike

Meanwhile, voters of the Lewica [Left] and the Koalicja Obywatelska [Civic Coalition] parties are the most open-minded, with support at a level of 84% and 79% respectively. Their responses are an almost perfect mirror image of the views of the PiS voters.

Szymon Hołownia’s voters have more doubts (54% in favour and 35% against).

Once again, it is can be seen that the opposition party voters are much bolder than the programmes of the parties they vote for. Meanwhile, contrary to the differences that their leaders like to emphasize, the voters of the Civic Coalition and the Left are very similar. The conservative anchor that the Civic Platform allegedly needs to hold on to so as not to lose support is a myth. Those who vote for Donald Tusk’s party vote for the whole of the ‘European Poland’ package. And among the values recognized in the EU community is respect for the family life of LGBT people. And this is precisely what the supporters of the Civic Coalition and the Left think and feel.

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* Ipsos poll for OKO.press, 10-12 May 2022, telephone survey (CATI) on a representative sample of adult Poles, sample size 1014 people.

Wyłączną odpowiedzialność za wszelkie treści wspierane przez Europejski Fundusz Mediów i Informacji (European Media and Information Fund, EMIF) ponoszą autorzy/autorki i nie muszą one odzwierciedlać stanowiska EMIF i partnerów funduszu, Fundacji Calouste Gulbenkian i Europejskiego Instytutu Uniwersyteckiego (European University Institute).


Anton Ambroziak

Dziennikarz i reporter. Uhonorowany nagrodami: Amnesty International „Pióro Nadziei” (2018), Kampanii Przeciw Homofobii “Korony Równości” (2019). W OKO.press pisze o prawach człowieka, społeczeństwie obywatelskim i usługach publicznych.