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US Adults Think 25% of Americans Are Gay

Jim Burroway

May 31st, 2011

I really don’t know what to make of this:

U.S. adults, on average, estimate that 25% of Americans are gay or lesbian. More specifically, over half of Americans (52%) estimate that at least one in five Americans are gay or lesbian, including 35% who estimate that more than one in four are. Thirty percent put the figure at less than 15%.

How one views the percentage of gay Americans appears to have mixed results when it comes to equality. Those who support marriage equality peg the percentage of gay people at 25.1% versus 24.1% for those who don’t. But those who believe gay and lesbian relationships should be criminalized peg the percentage at 26.2% versus 23.8 for those who don’t. With a 4% margin of error, both results are a statistical tie, but the results on criminalization might be worth further investigation.

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Amicus
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

Should the headline be, “Americans think life is ten times easier for gays than it really is”?

iDavid
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

Somehow those higher numbers make me feel better, more at home with more pride. I like it and tho it’s still a difficult number to truly calculate, my smile is a little bit brighter.

TampaZeke
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

Putting aside my opinion on this ridiculous poll’s results, we live in a country where people believe that a full QUARTER of the population is denied the right to marry the person they love, has second class citizenship status with fewer civil rights than the rest of the population, has no employment protections and is routinely verbally assaulted by pastors and politicians, and they’re pretty much cool with that?

Somehow, that doesn’t make me feel better about this country or its people.

tim
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

@tampazeke

Given the fact that most Americans don’t really know how many Americans are gay – I really doubt they know anything about our legal rights. The vast majority of Americans simply don’t grasp what comes with “marriage”. That is where we come in to help educate them.

John
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

Given the ranting on the right about what a danger LGBT are in our society, it is no big surprise that people over-estimate the number of LGBT. 25% represents a bigger danger than 5%. A bit weird as the “experts” on the right had originally tried to downplay the number of LGBT.

Priya Lynn
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

I think you’re right John. The anti-gays make a huge issue out of gays so the general public gets the wrong impression that there are huge numbers of them.

Phil
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

Those numbers seem so…bizarre. I haven’t read the full results yet, but I wonder what LGBT people think the breakdown is. I’ve come around to thinking that about 7.5% of the population is gay or lesbian.

Priya Lynn
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

Phil, I think 10% of the population has significant same sex attraction and 75% of the population has some same sex attraction.

Eastside Jim
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

I would love to know how all those people define what is Gay and what is Lesbian… vs Bisexual vs on the Downlow vs “I let these gay guys s**k me off BUT I’M straight” guys, etc…

I have a feeling it would be a pretty bizarre set of definitions.

Also, I would like to see how the stats were collected / how the sample was selected. How the questions were phrased? Many uncertainties come to mind when you get a result that is at least 2 or 3 standard deviations out…

Shofixti
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

Wow, a truly puzzling survey.
It is troubling that inaccuracy is rife regardless of opinion.

Shofixti
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

Now I’ve looked at the breakdown, I will summarise that:

You’re more likely to give a higher population percentage estimate if you’re a female, aged between 18 to 29, with high school level education or less, earning $30k or less, living in the East, identifying as a socially liberal, politically liberal, Democrat.

You’re more likely to give a lower population percentage estimate if you’re a male, 65+ years of age, a postgraduate, earning $75k or more, living in the West, a Republican who is a political and social conservative.

The absolute lowest average estimate of 16.4% was rendered by the postgraduate level educated respondents.

The absolute highest average estimate of 36.3% was rendered by the $30k and under annual income group of respondents.

Timothy Kincaid
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

phil,

If we go by self-identity, by reported attractions, or by sexual behavior, about 4% of the US population would fit in the LGBT category.

Setting aside the guessing about who is being honest with themselves or with pollsters and using what the research shows us, this is what we get.

I dealt with this pretty thoroughly here.

Priya Lynn
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

Timothy said “If we go by self-identity, by reported attractions, or by sexual behavior, about 4% of the US population would fit in the LGBT category.

Setting aside the guessing about who is being honest with themselves or with pollsters and using what the research shows us, this is what we get.

I dealt with this pretty thoroughly here.”.

And as I posted in that thread there are studies that give us good reason to believe 10% of the population fits in the LGBT category.

Chris McCoy
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

Or a whole bunch of LGBT’s wishdar is interfering with their gaydar…

Mark F.
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

“And as I posted in that thread there are studies that give us good reason to believe 10% of the population fits in the LGBT category.”

Um, transgender is NOT a sexual orientation.

Jaft
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

Chris – not necessarily. I’m at best a 1.5 on the Kinsey scale. Most days men don’t even remotely strike my fancy. I’d probably still think I was straight if not for being willing to consider the question openly.

Seeing the number of people who are involved in *far* more blatantly homosexual situations (for a good deal, ready this as U. S. congressmen) than I ever am and still identify as entirely straight, through in the fact that on average more women are willing to identify as bi than men generally are, as well as the inherant difficulty of recognizing bisexuality in this society for those who generally lean more towards straight, I’m willing to believe the numbers are fairly skewed.

I’m more likely to lean toward’s Priya’s numbers, though I would agree that the concrete knowledge we have *currently* would point to the percentage Timothy gave.

Shofixti
May 31st, 2011 | LINK

@Mark F. Don’t be in such a rush to speak categorically about this. Sexuality is part of having gender, I’m pretty sure the way you use this word is reliant upon gender too (e.g. can a man be a lesbian because he desires women?). The sexuality you presume to be universal is less cohesive than it appears.

One person’s transgender doesn’t necessarily dictate anyone else’s so I’d prefer not to pretend that you or I can simply sum them all up. For example some people identify as transgendered while others do not (and don’t use the ‘ed’).

Also, intersexed people may have sex without falling unproblematically into either category of male or female. Yet if there is only gay, straight and bisexual how could it be possible to have desire for someone who is physically ambiguous?

Um, transgender is NOT a sexual orientation.

What you have written is a regulatory fiction – a way of controlling how to think and talk about identity. But when you start to look at the other kinds of identities that exist from pansexual, asexual to genderqueer or thirdgender then the boundaries between gender and sexuality become blurred and contested.

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