NSSHB on gay percentages
October 5th, 2010
Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion has released its National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, what is dubbed “the largest, most comprehensive national survey of Americans’ sexual behavior since 1994.” As part of its extensive review of American sex practices, the NSSHB also provides information on the prevalence of gay people in the population.
Determining the size of the LGBT community is difficult. Even defining it can be a challenge.
I define a homosexual as someone who exclusively or predominantly experiences romantic and/or sexual attraction towards persons of the same sex. A bisexual experiences significant romantic and/or sexual attraction towards person of both sexes.
But measuring such characteristics can be problematic. Because same-sex attraction occurs in small percentages of the population and because there are few ways of measuring attraction that can be applied across a large study sample, calculation of the size of the gay and bisexual subpopulation relies on self-reporting, a notoriously flawed method. Self-reporting is only as accurate as the participants’ honesty with themselves and with the survey and requires that there be some agreed upon definitions.
Further, sexuality can be complex. I once had a conversation about sexual definitions with someone who was dating a MTF transgender friend of mine. While he was attracted to her femininity and appearance (she’s a beautiful woman), there was also the fact that she still had a penis.
Most good studies try and observe both sexual identity and sexual behavior. Neither of these exactly line up with sexual attraction, (there are some who experience predominantly same-sex attractions but who neither identify as gay or engage in same-sex behavior, as well as some who fit in one category but not the other). However, when taken in conjunction, they can provide information as to homosexual or bisexual orientation. The NSSHB presents both.
Before we discuss the results, let’s look at the validity of the survey and the appropriateness of relying on its findings. The NSSHB is not intended to be a measurement of same-sex sexuality, but rather a measure of human sexuality in Americans at a particular moment. However, if it is of sufficient size and quality, it can be of use.
The study used probability sampling to survey 2,936 men and 2,929 women age 14 to 94. They randomly selected addresses from a pool of about 98% of the population. They adjusted for demographic distribution and invited those selected to participate. About 64% responded, of which 82% agreed to participate. The questions were answered at the participant’s convenience over the internet.
This sampling method is fairly good for the purpose of identifying participants. However, it is skewed towards those who wish to participate in sex surveys, a consideration that could either over- or under-represent gay people. The sample results were verified against separately collected data on sexual orientation.
All in all, this is a credible survey of a fairly representative sample of significant size and should be given weight and consideration when discussing the extent of homosexual and bisexual orientation.
In general, sexual identity measures best add to the understanding of those who are “in the gay community.” It includes those who think of themself as being gay, but would not include those who are closeted, ex-gay, religiously opposed to self-inclusion in the community, or even some who happily live in a same-sex relationship but who see their lives as outside of the community.
Additionally, for purposes of self-reporting, it is well known and understood that gay is under-reported and bisexual is over-reported within the community (we all know someone whose “bisexuality” consists of one drunken opposite-sex hook-up in college). So it is probably reasonable to assume that surveys share this bias as well
As time goes on, identity will more closely parallel attraction, but for as long as there are anti-gay activists and social pressures which disadvantage those who are openly gay, this measure will not fully align with sexual orientation as experienced.
The NSSHB study revealed sexual identity as follows:
92.2% – Heterosexual
4.2% – Gay
2.6% – Bisexual
1.0% – Other
93.1% – Heterosexual
0.9% – Lesbian
3.6% – Bisexual
2.3% – Other
Unfortunately, with “other” registering so high, it is difficult to give any sense of certainty as to what this means. Certainly asexual or “not really sure” can be included, but there may be other cultural factors at play which shift definition from “gay” to “other”.
But we can say that this study reveals that about 7% of men and about 4.5% of women identify as gay or bisexual. This result is significantly higher – for men – than the result of the CDC’s 2005 report which found gay/bi men to be 2.3/1.8% and gay/bi women to be 1.3/2.8%.
Based on the two reports, and due to the small percentages and the margins of error, “4-7% of men and about 4% of women” may be the best quantification we can use for gay/bi identification.
Another interesting observation can be made from the identity results. Adolescents boys (14 to 17) report 1.8% gay and 1.5% bisexual while adolescent girls report 0.2% lesbian and 8.4% bisexual. These identities probably reflect social pressures to a great extent and may tell us about sharp differences between teenage acceptance of male homosexuality and female homosexuality, and especially the chic status that bisexuality may have among teen girls.
In current American society, sexual behavior can be hard to translate into orientation.
Many people whose sexual orientation is virtually entirely heterosexual may have experimented with same-sex behavior at some point in their life and such responses may not well correlate with homosexuality. But there are those who may also be fully homosexual in orientation and identity who are currently partnerless or who choose not to engage in same-sex behavior. So it would be foolish to equate single sexual experiences with homosexuality or bisexuality or even same-sex attraction.
Some indicators, however may be better than others. For example, it might be reasonable to assume that men who perform oral sex on another man are more likely to be same-sex attracted than a man who lays back, closes his eyes, and says, “hey, a blowj*b is a blowj*b.” And there is probably not a significant percentage of the population who regularly are anal sex recipients yet who lack any same-sex attraction.
Figures at both ends of the age scale were lower than average (due to obvious reasons), but looking at those men between the ages of 20 and 60 who “gave oral to male” we find
4.4% – during the past month
6.3% – during the past year
10.3% – during lifetime
Men between the ages of 20 and 60 who “received penis in anus” were
1.9% – during the past month
4.2% – during the past year
7.9% – during lifetime
These calculations are composite from individual age groups (for example, 10.8% of 20-24 year olds have been anally receptive) and do not take into consideration the probability range. However, they do confirm that the 7% of men who identify as gay or bisexual is a minimum number.
Women between the ages of 20 and 60 who “gave oral to female” were
0.9% – during the past month
3.1% – during the past year
11.0% – during lifetime
These numbers correlate interestingly with the lesbian/bisexual identities as reported above, and confirm that the 4.5% of women who identify as gay or bisexual is likely a minimum number.
In addition to providing information about the prevalence of homosexuality in society, this study blows the myth off the assumptions about “what gay sex is.” About 40% of heterosexuals (age 20 to 60) have engaged in anal sex, and about 15% have in the last year.
Oral sex is even more predominant. For example, of men aged 30 to 39, 49.4% received oral sex from a woman in the past month, and 38.1% reciprocated. Lifetime percentages of adults ranges averaged in the high 80s for both.
When anti-gay activists rant about the “dirty and diseased” aspect of gay sexuality, they are deceiving both themselves and their readers. Both anal sex and oral sex occurs far more frequently between heterosexuals than between gay or bisexual people.
Review of Family Research Council’s study on lesbians
May 24th, 2010
The Family Research Council, an avid anti-gay activist group, has released a new ‘study’ which purports to inform about the factors contributing to the sexual orientation of lesbians.
Women (aged 14-44) who have not had a homosexual sexual partner in the past year are more likely to worship at least weekly and to have grown up in intact families than those who have had a homosexual sexual partner in the past year. According to the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), 2.1 percent of women who grew up in intact married families and attend religious services at least weekly have had a homosexual sexual partner in the year prior to being asked, followed by women who grew up in other family structures and worship at least weekly (4.6 percent), those who grew up in intact married families and never worship (7.3 percent), and those who grew up in other family structures and never worship (9.5 percent).
The database selected was the National Survey of Family Growth conducted by the CDC in 2002-03 (and includes women aged 15-44). The CDC provides an easily readable abstract of sexual behavior of Americans and shines some light on FRC’s claims.
Let’s look first at FRC’s discoveries about women and church attendance. I wasn’t able to locate the NSFG stats on church attendance, but I’ll assume that they didn’t just make them up:
Let’s stop for a second to chuckle about the astonishing discovery that lesbians are less likely to currently attend church. Oh, gee, gosh, why ever could that be?
The FRC seems to think that going to church chases the gay away, that women who go to church are less likely to catch the lesbian bug, but I think that they have the cart before the horse. The answer is found in their own “related insights”:
Michele Dillon of Yale University reported that 44 percent of frequent Catholic church attendees “said that sexual relations between two adults of the same sex were wrong,” compared to 10 percent “of those who attended occasionally or never.”
I don’t find it particularly surprising that lesbians avoid the place where they are four times as likely to have “good Christians” actively seeking to make their life miserable. I’m just surprised FRC thinks anyone is so foolish as to see this from the opposite direction.
But I was surprised at a few facts.
For example, I didn’t know that over half of frequent Catholic church attendees don’t find sexual relations between two adults of the same sex to be wrong. That’s encouraging, and that was from a 1996 report.
And I also didn’t know that nearly 3% of all women who attend church weekly or monthly have had a same-sex relationship in the past year. That’s pretty impressive. As we’ll see later, that’s nearly three quarters of all lesbians, a much higher percentage than I would have guessed.
But let’s look at the more serious claim, that family structure can influence eventual orientation. Or, as FRC put it, (Catholic News Agency)
“This research further undermines the claim that homosexuality is largely genetic or biological in origin,” said Dr. Patrick F. Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute at Family Research Council, and co-author of the study.
“It is clear that social factors have a significant impact on whether a woman chooses to engage in homosexual relationships,” he noted.
Let’s address, for a moment, the nonsensical language equating homosexuality and “chooses to engage”.
Supposing that there was an identifiable link between childhood family structure and “whether a woman chooses to engage in homosexual relationships”, this would not automatically say something about her sexual orientation. It might tell us something about how she responds to her attractions, desires, or longings, but it would not inform us about whether they were there.
And the FRC knows full well that it is being deceptive on this issue. No credible scientist, activist, theorist or blogger has ever claimed that how one responds to one’s attractions – that is, “whether one chooses” – is genetic or biological. When discussing homosexuality, we are discussing attractions, not choices and FRC demonstrates their inherent dishonesty by seeking to conflate these separate issues.
But let’s see if a causal relationship between family structure and same-sex female relationships can be found in the NSFG data. I’ve not recalculated FRC’s percentages, but here is their graph:
FRC sees this as two demographics, married intact (the good families) and all the rest (the bad families). But, they don’t present the data in a way that is informative.
Looking at this graph one might think that each category has equal weight and is statistically valid. And one might also assume that having been raised in a married, always intact family greatly reduced the odds of a woman “choosing to engage in homosexual relationships.” But what FRC convenient forgets to mention is what the NSFG reports as the total percentage of women who actually have had a same-sex relationship in the past year: 4.4%.
In other words, FRC is seeing significance and relevance in reporting that there was 0.4% fewer women who had same-sex relationships from “good” families than from the population as a whole.
Zero point four percent.
Now I’m not sure how FRC got to their numbers. Either the cohabiting step-family category was so small a sub-sample as to have little influence on the population as a whole or they had a little problem with their excel schedule. But in any case, four tenths of one percent variance certainly does not demonstrate a correlation, much less a causation.
And if FRC cared in the slightest about honesty, integrity, or truth they would feel shame and retract their statement. But I think there’s about a 0.4% chance of that happening.
Bogus “American College of Pediatricians” distributes deliberately fraudulent anti-gay propaganda to schools
April 5th, 2010
In 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics, an association of 60,000 pediatricians, voted to adopt a position in support of gay parents. Six pediatricians who opposed this policy on religious grounds rallied like-minded friends and, on October 19th, about 15 people founded the American College of Pediatricians. It would be accurate to describe this organization as a vehicle through which a small minority of anti-gay doctors advocate in opposition to gay rights, abortion rights, and euthanasia.
According to Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink, at the end of March, the ACP sent out a letter to school superintendents.
They don’t say how many schools received the letter, but even one is too many.
Despite the name, ACP is not a institute of higher learning. Nor is it a professional organization for pediatricians. This is an advocacy group dedicated to political goals which is using an authoritative sounding name to fool the unaware.
Yes, their officers and their board are all pediatricians (usually older gentlemen in the South), but their “Pediatric Psychosocial Development Committee” reads like a members roster of the virulently anti-gay National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).
- Dean Byrd – past president of NARTH and influential in Evergreen, the Mormon ex-gay group
- Joe Nicolosi – the founder of NARTH and current board member
- George Rekers – NARTH board member, Christian reconstructionist, and closely associated with Paul Cameron. Rekers once recommended banning Native Americans from being able to adopt.
- Arthur Goldberg – founder of Jewish ex-gay group, JONAH. Goldberg was recently removed from NARTH’s board when he was exposed as a con-man with a felony record.
- Rick Fitzgibbons – member of NARTH’s Scientific Advisory Committee and the Catholic Medical Association.
- Trayce Hansen – an inexperienced psychologist who has written anti-gay opinion pieces and testified (disastrously) on the side of an ex-lesbian who was trying to deny her ex-partner access to their children.
- John Raney – The only information we have on Raney is that he was part of the Editorial/Review board for Paul Cameron’s self-promoting (single issue) Empirical Journal of Same-Sex Sexual Behavior.
The connections don’t stop at the committee level. One ACP board member, Quentin Van Meter, was a featured speaker at the 2009 NARTH Convention. And Michelle Cretella, a real nasty piece of work, sits on both boards. She is also listed as the “chair of the Sexuality Committee, American College of Pediatricians”.
With connections this deep to an organization whose primary function is to generate anti-gay propaganda masquerading as scientific research, it should not be too surprising that the American College of Pediatrics uses the same tactics. Their letter to the schools is rife with lies, misrepresentations, distortions and outright fraud. In fact, there is little there that has any distant relationship to truth.
The letter – and the website it directs the reader – makes a number of claims. And the ACP has adopted Paul Cameron’s tactic of lengthy footnotes. But, as with Cameron, the supporting documents do not support the claims. Let’s take a look at the first three.
Homosexuality is not a genetically-determined, unchangeable trait.
Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the Genome Project, has stated that while homosexuality may be genetically influenced, it is “… not hardwired by DNA, and (that) whatever genes are involved represent predispositions, not predetermination[s].” He also states that “…the prominent role of individual free will choices have a profound effect on us.”
The evidence we have at present strongly supports the proposition that there are hereditary factors in male homosexuality — the observation that an identical twin of a male homosexual has approximately a 20% likelihood of also being gay points to this conclusion, since that is 10 times the population incidence. But the fact that the answer is not 100% also suggests that other factors besides DNA must be involved. That certainly doesn’t imply, however, that those other undefined factors are inherently alterable.
Misquoting once is perhaps an error in judgment. Repeating the process after you have been refuted is fraud.
Homosexual attraction is determined by a combination of familial, environmental, social and biological influences. Inheritance of predisposing personality traits may play a role for some. Consequently, homosexual attraction is changeable.
Consequently? Oh please dear God don’t let our nation have school superintendents so stupid that they don’t immediately burst out laughing.
First, while we know that genetics plays a role for at least some gay men (there’s less study performed on women), we do not know whether the other contributing factors include family, environment (in utero, social, chemical, or other), or social. Interestingly, other than a book by a NARTH member, all other footnoted sources were support for the role that genetics plays.
But as for “changeable”, the evidence suggests quite the opposite. And to find that orientation has a number of contributing factors does not “consequently” support that claim.
This is simply bait and switch deception.
Most students (over 85%) with same-sex attractions will ultimately adopt a heterosexual orientation if not otherwise encouraged. Most questioning students are experiencing temporary sexual confusion or are involved in experimentation.
Rigorous studies demonstrate that most adolescents who initially experience same-sex attraction, or are sexually confused, no longer experience such attractions by age 25. In one study, as many as 26% of 12-year-olds reported being uncertain of their sexual orientation, yet only 2-3% of adults actually identify themselves as homosexual. Therefore, the majority of sexually-questioning youth ultimately adopt a heterosexual identity.
Except that the source they use for the “26% of 12-year-olds” doesn’t quite say what they pretend.
From the article:
The percentage of students who were “unsure” about orientation steadily declined with age from 25.9% in 12-year-old persons to 5% in 18-year-old students.
But what does this “uncertainty” mean? Are these same-sex attracted kids?
The percentage of students reporting predominantly homosexual attractions steadily increased with age, while the proportion with bisexual or predominantly heterosexual attractions decreased.
In fact, only 2.2% of 12-year-olds reported predominantly homosexual attractions.
These kids were not “sexually-questioning youth”. And they were not “students with same-sex attractions”. Rather, these 12-year-olds were not yet “sure” about their sexual orientation. Frankly, they probably weren’t exactly sure what it all meant. But they did figure it out over time.
And were they “involved in experimentation”? Not according to this study.
Overall, 1% of respondents reported some homosexual experience; and 52%, some heterosexual experience… For males, but not females, the prevalence of reported homosexual experiences increased with age, from 0.4% at 12 years to a peak of 2.8% at 18.”
Everything that ACP claimed is refuted by going to the source they credit. This isn’t a “perspective” or a “way of reading the data”. This is a lie.
They go on with the usual litany of lies. You know, that homosexuality is a dangerous lifestyle wrought with physical and mental illness caused by sexual abuse. But therapy has proven to be effective in curing homosexuality (and behavior is a choice anyway) so you shouldn’t allow support groups on campus (they aren’t good for kids). It’s pretty evil stuff.
No school should rely on this bogus organization for truth. They have none to offer.
But what they have done goes beyond opinion. It goes beyond faith or values or religion. This was a deliberate attempt to deceive. It twisted the work of legitimate researchers and sought to establish positions in educational institutions that are the opposite of what their research found to be best for the kids. If school superintendents rely on this information, it could harm the lives of children.
The board of directors of this organization are licensed medical doctors. They are pediatricians. It is unconscionable what they have done.
New military survey on DADT
March 17th, 2010
In February, Lake Research Partners and American Viewpoint, on behalf of Vet Voice Foundation, conducted a telephone survey of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
The methodology appears to be fairly decent, though the margin of error is a bit large.
Lake Research Partners and American Viewpoint designed and administered this survey, which was conducted by phone using professional interviewers. The survey reached a total of 510 veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) and/or Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). The survey was conducted February 8-23, 2010. Telephone numbers for the sample were generated randomly from a military sample and a radius sample drawn from military bases in the United States. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 4.4 percentage points.
But I do have some concerns about the demographic breakdown. As best I can tell, it does not appear to be representative of the military as a whole. It appears to over-represent white, male, and more highly educated personnel than what I’ve been able to identify as reflective of those serving. Nevertheless, it adds to the conversation.
This sample was:
45% Republican (or leaning) v. 20% Democrat (or leaning)
19% High school education, with 44% college graduate or post graduate
36% evangelical Christian
69% white, 16% black
58% think there were gay people in their most recent unit
Of this sample,
- 60% agree and 29% disagree with “Being gay or lesbian has little bearing on a service member’s ability to perform their duties.” This may be skewed by two lead up questions asking about race and gender having bearing.
- 73% are comfortable (37% very) and 23% are uncomfortable (7% very) “in the presence of gays and lesbians?”
- 34% favor (24% very); 36% oppose (29% very); and 30% aren’t sure about “allowing openly gay men and lesbian women to serve in the military”
- When asked to “describe your personal opinion if gay and lesbian people were allowed to serve openly in the military”, 73% said it would be acceptable (though 31% wouldn’t like it) and 25% said it would be unacceptable.
They also measured by age and found that “younger veterans lean toward favoring allowing gay men and lesbian women to serve openly while older veterans lean toward opposing the change, but there is little intensity in either direction.”
While I am not sure that this accurately reflects the views of our military, it does add to the growing recognition that soldiers care a lot less about the sexual orientation of their fellows than do Senators or Pentagon officials.
The NGLTF Study On Race and Prop 8: The Problem of Margins of Error
This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
January 12th, 2009
Well, I’ve said before I had some homework to do this weekend. It turns out that this weekend was jam-packed with unexpected activities, but I did manage to give the NGLTF report (PDF: 420KB/17 pages) a careful read this morning while sipping tea from my family’s heirloom Fiestaware handed down from my great-great grandmother. Yes, I’m a dish queen.
Margin of Error: The Key
Timothy’s Kincaid’s analysis garnered a lot of controversy last week. Many people privately called and emailed to ask if I agreed with it. My only response at the time is that I hadn’t had a chance to look over the NGLTF report or Timothy’s analysis, but I generally trust his judgment. Well, now I have studied the report, and I do think it falls short, but in very different ways than what Timothy found.
My concerns about this report begin with one important paragraph on page 2:
Table 1 displays findings from a poll of California voters conducted by David Binder Research (DBR) between November 6th and 16th, 2008. The survey included 1,066 respondents selected at random from state voter registration lists, including an oversample of 266 African American, Latino, and Asian‐American voters. Participants were asked a series of questions about Proposition 8, as well as basic questions about their demographic background, religion, political views, and other characteristics. The sample in the DBR survey was limited to those who reported voting in the November 4 general election, and its margin of error was 3 percentage points (although the margin is greater for analyses of subgroups within the sample).
The DBR survey is the backbone of this study. That three-percent margin of error applies only to the 1,066 respondents overall, not to the smaller sample of 266 African-American, Latino, and Asian-American voters. The authors acknowledge that “the margin is greater for analyses of subgroups within the sample,” but they don’t tell you what those margins are. This is important, because as sample sizes get smaller, the margin of error gets larger.
A simple calculation for the 266 African-American, Latino, and Asian-American voters reveals that this margin of error is actually plus or minus 6 percentage points. That is margin of error for the three groups combined. Nowhere in this report is a breakdown of the three groups revealed. Of the 266 participants in the subgroup, how many were African-American?
Since they don’t tell us, we’re left to guess. If Blacks made up half of that pool, then responses from African-Americans alone are subject to an 8.5% margin of error. Cut that in about half again to separate the church-going from the non-church-going, then you’re up to about a plus or minus 12 percentage point margin of error for the two groups of African-Americans separately. If Blacks only made up a third of that pool, then the margins of error are greater still — about 10.4% and 14.7% respectively. This is huge. How do these large margins of error affect the rest of the report?
Religiosity As An Explanation
To see, let’s move on to this graphic, which illustrates the religiosity of the four ethnic groups using the DBR survey data with the margins of error we just talked about. You’ll have to click on the image to see it clearly:
According to the DBR survey, 57% of African-American voters attend church service weekly, compared to 40% for Asians, 47% for Latinos, and 42% for White. The authors assert that the differences between African-Americans and the rest of the population is statistically significant, which checks out according to the standard measures for statistical significance. Even with this small sample size and large margin of error, the DBR data does successfully demonstrate that African-Americans are more likely to attend weekly religious services than the other groups.
That then leads us to this graphic, based again on the same DBR survey. Again, you’ll have to click on it to see clearly:
The authors say that the differences shown in this graph between ethnic groups are not statistically significant, and they conclude that this shows that religiosity explains the differences in how African-Americans voted relative to everyone else.
Well, at least one part of their statement is absolutely correct. The differences between ethnic groups in the figures referenced in this table are not statistically significant according to all the standard measures of significance — but that’s because the sample sizes are so small.
There is a logical fallacy in saying that just because this data shows no statistically significant difference, that there is no actual difference. That’s not true. All we can say is that this data is incapable of showing a statistically significant difference based on these results and these small sample sizes. It cannot demonstrate that there is no difference in actuality. Remember, we’re dealing with a probable margin of error for the African-American churchgoing sample of somewhere in the neighborhood of plus or minus 12% to 14.7%. With an uncertainty that large, these numbers could be all over the place and still be a statistical tie. Any assessment of actual differences is completely swamped by the margins of error.
If the study consisted of a larger pool of African-American respondents to get a lower the margin of error, we might have been able to converge on a statistically significant difference. Or maybe then we can prove that there really is no difference in how religious African-Americans voted compared to the other groups. But with this data, we cannot tell either way. The Achilles Heel in this study remains the very small sample size for African-Americans and the resulting large margins of error for that sample. I don’t think they are able to make the case that religiosity explains the African-American vote with this data.
The African-American Vote on Prop 8
So how did African-Americans vote? Let’s go to this graphic from the NGLTF report:
The NGLTF study is being used to throw cold water on CNN’s NEP exit poll, which said that 70% of African-Americans supported Prop 8. The middle set of bars are the NEP exit poll, which shows African-Americans voting 70% for Prop 8 (in gray) versus 52% overall voting for Prop 8 (in black). The graphic also shows two surveys taken before the election (The Field Poll of 10/23 and SurveyUSA on 10/30) and two surveys taken after the election (the DBR poll we’ve already mentioned showing 58% of African-Americans supporting Prop 8 versus 51% overall on 11/11, and the SurveyUSA on 11/19). The study authors note:
As shown in Figure 2, two surveys conducted just before Election Day (by Field and SurveyUSA) found insignificant differences in support for Proposition 8 between African Americans and Californians as a whole. Two surveys conducted in the weeks following Election Day found similar results. On average, the difference in support between African Americans and all voters in these four surveys was just two percentage points. The NEP exit poll finding—that black support for Proposition 8 was 18 points higher than Californians as a whole—is most likely an “outlier,” a result that is very different than what concurrent data trends suggest to be the case. [Emphasis mine]
The authors dismiss the NEP exit poll as an outlier, an assessment that I can agree with. Exit polls, by their nature, don’t include margins of error. But since it is likely that the sample size of African-Americans was very small in this exit poll, I can accept that it is probably not an accurate snapshot of how African-Americans voted.
However, the study authors claim that the four remaining surveys show a difference of just two percentage points on average. True enough, in a strictly mathematical sense. But since the last SurveyUSA was the only survey showing African-Americans actually opposing Prop 8 to a remarkable degree compared to everyone else — that difference is a whopping eight percentage points in the other direction — I don’t see how we can regard that as anything but an outlier as well. So, with the three remaining polls, the difference is now back up to five percentage points.
Is this significant? I can’t tell, since again, we don’t know the sample sizes of African-Americans in these polls to judge whether they are robust enough to draw a reasonable conclusion.
The problem of sample sizes and margins of error, in my mind, does lay to rest one of Timothy’s concerns, and that is this:
In their Table 1, they lay out their breakdown of ethnic voting:
Well sorry, but those numbers don’t get us to 52.3% support. One of those ethnic demographics is understated.
Given the likely margins of error involved, I don’t think that this chart is off base entirely. No poll is likely to mimic the 52.3% of the actual vote at the means, but shoving all of these figures around their margins of error will get there quite easily. (I also wonder if maybe there ought to be an “other” category not included in the table.)
Fifty-eight percent as a very rough ballpark figure could be about right for the African-American vote. But given some of the margins of error we tossed around earlier, that figure could be as high as about 67% to 70%, or as low as 49% to 46%. Which means that if we used the DBR survey as the reference survey as the NGLTF study authors did, then none of those surveys which I (or the NGLTF authors) suggested were outliers may be outliers after all. The DBR survey may well validate all of them.
The study authors then replicate a 58% estimate by using data depicted in this figure, which is based on precinct-level voting data from five California counties:
The line drawn through the figure represents a “running-mean smoother” to show the overall trend as the racial mix of precincts moves from 0% to 100% African-American. Unlike Timothy, I’m satisfied with this representation which the authors use to arrive at a 58% figure for African-Americans, although I am keen to learn the algorithm for the smoother. But generally this verifies what many of us suspect: Those who live in diverse settings are more comfortable with diversity. Those who don’t, aren’t.
The reason I’m okay with this is that the authors also ran this same data set through two other independent analyses which led them to report a degree of comfort with an estimate of 58% of African-Americans voting for Prop 8. They do caution however, that “rather than being treated as definitive, these estimates should be considered as helping to corroborate the individual-level findings discussed earlier in this section of the study” — namely, the discussion of the five surveys we discussed earlier.
But in the end, I do believe the authors were successful in demonstrating that the Black vote may be closer to 58% than 70%. The higher figure, technically speaking, still barely remains in the theoretical realm of possibility, but I think we can safely dismiss it. But I would also caution that 58% might not be accurate either.
Can The Scapegoating End?
But if 58% is plausible, does this mean that the scapegoating of African-Americans can come to an end? Of course it does.
But what if the authors instead determined that the figure was closer to 70%? Would that have meant that blaming African-Americans for Prop 8’s passage was legitimate? Ask yourself this and take a hard look at how you answer, because this is critical to where our movement goes next. The answer to this question speaks loudly to our own character as a community.
If all it takes is a survey to give one oppressed minority the justification it needs to blame another oppressed minority for its woes, then we have a lot more work to do before we can credibly address society’s attitudes about fairness and equality. We will have to change our own attitudes first.
We cannot assume that one oppressed minority ought to automatically empathize with another oppressed minority’s oppression. If that were true, Jews and Palestinians would see themselves in each other and peace would break out all over the Middle East. Well that certainly hasn’t happened, has it?
Just to touch the tip of a few icebergs, gays were never enslaved or lynched in mass numbers. Non-Black gays really have no idea what it’s like to have that in their history. On the other hand, heterosexual Blacks were never obliged to undergo cruel “cures,” nor were they ostracized from their own families because of their Blackness. We really don’t know — internally know — the other’s experiences with history, and we can no longer be so naive in assuming that others will naturally see and recognize our experiences with discrimination just because they were discriminated against in a different way for different reasons.
So we must begin the task of reaching out to the African-American community, and more importantly, we need to work to raise the visibility of African-Americans within our own raucous LGBT family. If we want to confront homophobia in the Black community, we must also deal with examples of both overt and underlying racism within our own.
And we need to talk honestly and listen patiently to each other. We need to do this not to “educate” the other, as though we had some sort of special prize that we wish to arrogantly bestow on some poor, unenlightened folks. Instead, we need to do this with the sincere intent of understanding each other and ourselves better.
We need to do this not because a survey says we ought to. We need to do this because it is the right thing to do.
And we need to do this not just because elections are at stake, but because lives are at stake as well.
Dallas Morning News Religion Blog and “Gay Sex”
January 26th, 2008
Jeffrey Weiss at the Dallas Morning News’ Religion Blog asks a very strange and confusing question: Does the FCC endorse gay sex?
Weiss reports that the FCC fined ABC Television for showing a woman’s naked buttocks, rejecting ABC’s claim that the said derrière is not a sexual organ. Weiss writes:
Um. The buttocks are (is?) a sexual organ? Without getting too specific for this blog, I can think of only one, um, activity for which that would be routinely the case. Is the FCC, well, endorsing that particular activity?
Well, the answer is easy: no, the FCC does not endorse it. Didn’t he notice the $1.43 million fine?
But more to the point, that one, um, activity isn’t “gay sex” necessarily.
The 1991 National Survey of Men, a nationally representative study of 3,321 men aged 20-39 in the United States (response rate: 70%), 20% reported having had anal sex with a woman at least once in the previous ten years. (Billy, John O.G.; Tanfer, Koray; Grady, William R.; Klepinger, Daniel H. “The sexual behavior of men in the United States.” Family Planning Perspectives 25, no. 2 (March 1993): 52-60.)
The 1992 National Health and Social Life survey, another nationally representative study of 3,159 adults between the ages of 18-59 (response rate: 80%), reported that 25.6% of men and 20.4% of women reported having had anal sex with an opposite-sex partner. Furthermore, 9.1% of married men and 7.3% of married women reported anal intercourse in the past year. (Lauman, Edward O.; Gagnon, John H.; Michael, Robert T.; Michaels, Stuart. The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994): Table 3.6.)
And in the 2002-2003 National Survey of Family Growth conducted by the CDC, 12,571 adults between the ages of 15 and 44 years of age (response rate: 79%) reported that 34% of men and 30% of women reported having had anal intercourse with the opposite sex. (Mosher, William D.; Chandra, Anjani; Jones, Jo. “Sexual Behavior and selected health measures: Men and women 15-44 years of age, United States, 2002.” Advance Data from Vital and Health Statistics no. 362 (Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2005): Table 7. Available online (PDF: 1,235KB/56 pages).)
In other words, there are more straight people doing that one, um, activity than gay people.