The Nemo effect: how attitudes towards trans and non-binary people have changed in Switzerland

What do Swiss people think about trans and non-binary people? This was the topic investigated by GDI researcher Jakub Samochowiec as part of a new social study that will be published in the autumn. Samochowiec found that the performance by the Swiss musician Nemo at the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) has left its mark.
6 June, 2024 by
The Nemo effect: how attitudes towards trans and non-binary people have changed in Switzerland
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

There is a time before 11 May and a time after. Not only for Switzerland, which won the contest for the third time on that date, and for the non-binary community, which had probably never been given such a big stage - in the truest sense of the word - but also for the singing talent Nemo, who became an international star that evening. But what effect did all this have on the Swiss population? Does a media event of this magnitude have the power to influence attitudes towards a group without direct contact to that group? 

GDI researchers looked into this question in a survey. Two weeks before the ESC, 3000 people in German- and French-speaking Switzerland were asked how they would feel if a trans or non-binary person moved into their neighbourhood. Approximately a fifth said that they felt negatively about this idea. About 13% reacted positively to it. The majority - about two-thirds of respondents - perceived this as neither positive nor negative. A week after the ESC, another thousand people from French and German-speaking Switzerland were polled. 

And indeed, attitudes towards trans and non-binary people had become much more positive in this short period of time. The proportion of people with negative attitudes had fallen from 21% to about 13%, while surprisingly enough, the proportion of those with positive attitudes had risen by exactly the same amount. Two-thirds remained neutral.



Although the connection can't be proven clearly, it is highly likely that Nemo's appearance and the associated major media coverage of non-binary identities has led some people to rethink their attitudes. 

Familiarity and openness towards a group can therefore be influenced not only by direct contact with certain groups of people, but also 
arise through contact with cultural assets. This effect is also responsible for the fact that "The Cosby Show," for example, apparently had a positive influence on the image of people of colour in the United States in the 1980s. 

It remains to be seen whether the Nemo effect will have a lasting impact.

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