The Attitudes Toward Lesbians and Gay Men Scale

The Attitudes Toward Lesbians and Gay Men (ATLG) Scale is a brief measure of heterosexuals’ attitudes toward gay men and lesbians. The original scale consisted of 20 different statements, 10 about gay men (ATG subscale) and 10 about lesbians (ATL subscale), to which respondents indicated their level of agreement or disagreement. Shorter versions have subsequently been developed, consisting of ATG and ATL subscales with parallel versions of 3, 4, or 5 items. These shorter versions have been found to be highly correlated with the original, longer subscales (e.g., rs > .95 between 5-item versions of the ATG and ATL and their 10-item counterparts), and their use is now recommended instead of the original subscales.


The ATLG can be self-administered (presented on paper or on a computer) or administered orally (as in a telephone survey). When presented visually, scale items are typically accompanied by a 5-, 7-, or 9-point Likert-type scale with anchor points of Strongly Disagree and Strongly Agree. When administered orally during telephone or face-to-face interviews, four response options are usually offered (Strongly Disagree, Disagree Somewhat, Agree Somewhat, Strongly Agree), and respondents are allowed to volunteer a middle response (e.g., "Neither Agree nor Disagree").

If labeling of each response point is desired, it is recommended that a 4- or 5-point scale be used with the following labels:

  • strongly disagree
  • disagree somewhat
  • neither agree nor disagree (for 5-point scales only)
  • agree somewhat
  • strongly agree.

For college-educated respondents, each item requires roughly 30-60 seconds.


Scoring is accomplished by summing numerical values (e.g., 1 = strongly disagree, 9 = strongly agree) across items for each subscale. Reverse scoring is used for some items. For ease of interpretation, the sum of item values can be divided by the total number of items to yield a score that matches the response scale metric. The possible range of scores depends on the response scale used.

Scores on the original ATL and ATG subscales, which are based on responses to differently worded items, were not directly comparable. Researchers wishing to compare respondents’ attitudes toward gay men with their attitudes toward lesbians were advised to use parallel forms of one subscale (usually the ATG items). The use of such parallel forms (with each item presented once in reference to gay men and once in reference to lesbians) is now recommended for all ATLG scale users.


Reliability and Validity
The ATLG subscales have high levels of internal consistency. When self-administered, alpha > .85 with most college student samples and alpha > .80 with most nonstudent adult samples. For telephone surveys with oral administration to adult samples, alpha > .80 for 5-item versions and alpha > .70 for 3-item versions. Test-retest reliability (rs > .80) has been demonstrated with alternate forms (Herek, 1988, 1994).

Scores on the ATLG subscales are reliably correlated with other theoretically relevant constructs (e.g., Herek, 1994, 2009; Herek & Capitanio, 1996, 1999a, 1999b). Higher scores are associated with high religiosity, lack of interpersonal contact with gay men and lesbians, adherence to traditional gender-role attitudes, belief in a traditional family ideology, and endorsement of policies that discriminate against sexual minorities. In addition, ATG scores are reliably correlated with AIDS-related stigma in the United States. The ATLG's discriminant validity also has been established. Members of lesbian and gay organizations scored at the extreme positive end of the range, and nonstudent adults who publicly supported a gay rights ballot measure scored significantly lower on the ATLG than did community residents who publicly opposed the initiative (Herek, 1988, 1994).


Administration in Other Languages and Outside the United States
The ATLG was developed for administration to English-speaking adult heterosexuals in the United States. It has also been used in research conducted in England (Hegarty, 2002) and Canada (Mohipp & Morry, 2004), and translated versions have been administered in the Netherlands (Meerendonk, Eisinga, & Felling, 2003), Singapore (Detenber et al., 2007), Brazil (DeSouza, Solberg, & Elder, 2007), Chile (Cardenas & Barrientos, 2008; Nierman, Thompson, Bryan, & Mahaffey, 2007), and Turkey (Gelbal & Duyan, 2006). In addition, a Spanish-language version was created for a study of California adults of Mexican descent (Herek & Gonzalez-Rivera, 2006).

In these studies, scale reliability has been consistently acceptable (typically, alpha > .80), and the patterns of correlations between ATLG scores and theoretically related constructs have been similar to those obtained with U.S. English-speaking samples.


Other Information
For a more thorough discussion of the ATLG's development and usage, and item and scale scores for various samples, see Herek (1994, 1998; Herek & McLemore, 2011).


Doctoral-level social and behavioral scientists, as well as students and researchers working under their supervision, may use the ATLG in not-for-profit research that is consistent with the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles of Psychologists. It is not necessary to obtain formal permission from Dr. Herek to use the scale in research that meets these conditions, and such permissions are not provided, even upon request. Permission to use the scale is explicitly denied to individuals who have been expelled or dropped from membership in a professional or scientific association because of their violation of the organization's ethical standards.

Cardenas, M., & Barrientos, J. (2008). The Attitudes Toward Lesbians and Gay Men Scale (ATLG): Adaptation and testing the reliability and validity in Chile. Journal of Sex Research, 45, 140–149.

DeSouza, E., Solberg, J., & Elder, C. (2007). A cross-cultural perspective on judgments of woman-to-woman sexual harassment: Does sexual orientation matter? Sex Roles, 56, 457–471.

Detenber, B., Cenite, M., Ku, M., Ong, C., Tong, H., & Yeow, M. (2007). Singaporeans’ attitudes toward lesbians and gay men and their tolerance of media portrayals of homosexuality. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 19, 367–379.

Gelbal, S., & Duyan, V. (2006). Attitudes of university students toward lesbians and gay men in Turkey. Sex Roles, 55, 573–579.

Hegarty, P. (2002). "It’s not a choice, it’s the way we’re built:: Symbolic beliefs about sexual orientation in the US and Britain. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 12, 153–166.

Herek, G.M. (1984). Attitudes toward lesbians and gay men: A factor analytic study. Journal of Homosexuality, 10 (1/2), 39-51.

Herek, G.M. (1987a). Can functions be measured? A new perspective on the functional approach to attitudes. Social Psychology Quarterly, 50, 285-303.

Herek, G.M. (1987b). Religion and prejudice: A comparison of racial and sexual attitudes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 13, 56-65.

Herek, G.M. (1988). Heterosexuals' attitudes toward lesbians and gay men: Correlates and gender differences. Journal of Sex Research, 25, 451-477.

Herek, G.M. (1994). Assessing heterosexuals' attitudes toward lesbians and gay men: A review of empirical research with the ATLG scale. In B. Greene, & G.M. Herek (Eds.) Lesbian and gay psychology: Theory, research, and clinical applications (pp. 206-228). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Herek, G.M. (1997). The HIV epidemic and public attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. In M.P. Levine, P. Nardi, & J. Gagnon (Eds.) In changing times: The impact of the HIV epidemic on the lesbian and gay community. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Herek, G. M. (1998). The Attitudes Toward Lesbians and Gay Men (ATLG) scale. In C.M. Davis, W.H. Yarber, R. Bauserman, G. Schreer, & S.L. Davis (Eds.), Sexuality-related measures: A compendium. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Herek, G.M. (2000). Sexual prejudice and gender: Do heterosexuals' attitudes toward lesbians and gay men differ? Journal of Social Issues 56(2), 251-266.

Herek, G.M. (2002). Gender gaps in public opinion about lesbians and gay men. Public Opinion Quarterly 66(1), 40-66.

Herek, G. M. (2009). Sexual stigma and sexual prejudice in the United States: A conceptual framework. In D. A. Hope (Ed.), Contemporary perspectives on lesbian, gay and bisexual identities: The 54th Nebraska Symposium on Motivation (pp. 65–111). New York: Springer.

Herek, G.M., & Capitanio, J.P. (1995). Black heterosexuals' attitudes toward lesbians and gay men in the United States. Journal of Sex Research, 32, 95-105.

Herek, G. M., & Capitanio, J. P. (1996). "Some of my best friends": Intergroup contact, concealable stigma, and heterosexuals' attitudes toward gay men and lesbians. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 412-424.

Herek, G. M., & Capitanio, J. P. (1999a). AIDS stigma and sexual prejudice. American Behavioral Scientist, 42, 1126-1143.

Herek, G. M., & Capitanio, J. P. (1999b). Sex differences in how heterosexuals think about lesbians and gay men: Evidence from survey context effects. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 348-360.

Herek, G.M., & Glunt, E.K. (1991). AIDS-related attitudes in the United States: A preliminary conceptualization. Journal of Sex Research, 28, 99-123.

Herek, G.M., & Glunt, E.K. (1993). Interpersonal contact and heterosexuals' attitudes toward gay men: Results from a national survey. Journal of Sex Research, 30, 239-244.

Herek, G. M., & Gonzalez-Rivera, M. (2006). Attitudes toward homosexuality among U.S. residents of Mexican descent. Journal of Sex Research, 43, 122-135.

Herek, G. M., & McLemore, K. A. (2011). The Attitudes Toward Lesbians and Gay Men (ATLG) scale. In T. Fisher, C. M. Davis, W. L. Yarber & S. L. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of sexuality-related measures (3rd ed., pp. 415-417). Oxford, England: Taylor & Francis.

Meerendonk, B. van de, Eisinga, R., & Felling, A. (2003). Application of Herek’s Attitudes Toward Lesbians and Gay Men Scale in the Netherlands. Psychological Reports, 93, 265–275.

Mohipp, C., & Morry, M. (2004). The relationship of symbolic beliefs and prior contact to heterosexuals’ attitudes toward gay men and lesbian women. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 36, 36–44.

Nierman, A. J., Thompson, S., Bryan, A., & Mahaffey, A. (2007). Gender role beliefs and attitudes toward lesbians and gay men in Chile and the U.S. Sex Roles, 57, 61–67.

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