Minority Stress, Campaign Messages and Political Participation during the Australian Marriage Plebiscite

Bartos, Sebastian; Noon, Daniel W. and Frost, David M. (2021). Minority Stress, Campaign Messages and Political Participation during the Australian Marriage Plebiscite. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 18(4) pp. 75–86.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-020-00444-y


The health and wellbeing of sexual minorities is adversely impacted by a set of factors collectively known as minority stress. Recently, negative campaigns preceding gay-rights referenda have put further pressure on sexual minorities. However, active participation in political campaigns is expected to foster wellbeing. This study explores the mechanisms through which political campaigns affect psychological distress in sexual minorities.

We conducted a survey with 318 Australian sexual minority individuals during the campaign for the same-sex marriage postal vote in 2017.

As expected, exposure to negative campaign messages was associated with psychological distress. This association persisted controlling for the effects of everyday stress. The effect of exposure to negative campaign messages was no longer significant when controlling for minority stressors like internalized homophobia, expectations of rejection, and everyday discrimination. Political participation was also associated with psychological distress. Post hoc analyses supported a model whereby minority stressors mediated the associations of campaign messages and political participation with distress.

Minority stress provides a flexible theoretical framework that can incorporate novel challenges to the wellbeing of sexual minorities.

Policy Implication
As public votes on the rights of sexual minorities become more common, it is important to develop models that can inform policy in protecting such minorities.

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