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Europe

Poll: Europeans Prefer Gay, Rathern Than Gray Leaders

A gay politician would have better chances than a retiree of getting elected in Europe, a new survey shows.

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus

Lithuania's Valdas Adamkus, 81, is one of Europe's elder statesmen

European Union citizens would prefer to elect a gay leader than have one they consider too old, a study released in Brussels revealed Tuesday, July 1.

A Eurobarometer study of 27,000 EU citizens across the bloc found that just 17 percent of Europeans would be totally comfortable with someone over the age of 75 in their country's highest elected post.

That is less than half than the 36 percent who would be at ease with a homosexual leader, and well below the support for a leader drawn from an ethnic minority (26 percent totally comfortable) or a different religion (30 percent totally at ease).

It is also substantially below the support for a national leader who is younger than 30 -- an idea with which one in four Europeans said they were completely comfortable.

Age discrimination a problem?

Of the EU's political leaders, only presidents Karolos Papoulias of Greece (79), Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania (81) and Giorgio Napolitano of Italy (83) are over 75 years old. None of the bloc's current prime ministers break the age barrier.

Even in countries with elder statesmen, a relatively small proportion said they would be completely comfortable with a leader aged over 75, with only Lithuania recording more than the average level of support in the EU. Britain and Poland recorded the most age-friendly electorates, with a quarter of people saying they were completely comfortable with the idea of an aged leader.

On Wednesday, the European Commission is set to present a series of legal proposals on discrimination, among other issues. The Eurobarometer study was ordered ahead of that event.

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