Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Just How Many Gay People Are There?

The majority of Americans -incorrectly- believes 1 in 5 Americans are gay.

An interesting 2011 Gallup poll finds that 52% of Americans believe 20% or more of the US population is gay.  Indeed, this poll shows respondents on average believe 1 in 4 Americans are gay.  A hodgepodge of demographic groups report the highest -and likely most incorrect- answers:
  • women
  • lower income respondents
  • Southerners
  • individuals with a high school degree or less
  • Democrats
  • social liberals
  • people who oppose legalization of gay/lesbian relations
The poll has a margin of error of +/-4 %.

The cold fact is that any estimation of the number of gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans relies on sampling data.  Why?  Because our numbers for Americans based on race, Hispanic ethnicity, sex, and age all come from the US Census.  For other categorizations of the American population -such as by sexual orientation or by religious affiliation- we have to turn to other research techniques such as sampling, compilation of church registries, etc.  

UCLA's Williams Institute, however, does considerable work in the area of LGBT demographics.  Gary Gates' paper does an admirable meta-analysis of various studies seeking to determine the number of gay Americans.  He concludes that 3.5% of the population are likely to identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

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