A new Gallup study claims that 3.4% of American adults self-identify as “lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT),” and was conducted with Gary Gates of the Williams Institute. Gallup cautions that “it’s likely that some Americans in what is commonly referred to as ‘the closet’ would not be included in the estimates derived from the Gallup interviews. Thus, the 3.4% estimate can best be represented as adult Americans who publicly identify themselves as part of the LGBT community when asked in a survey context.”
Additionally, 4.4% answered “don’t know” or “refused to answer,” and the study has a 1% plus or minus margin of error, so it’s possibly these numbers could be double.
“This is the largest single study of the distribution of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population in the U.S. on record,” Gallup notes.
“The 3.4% figure is similar to a 3.8% estimate made by one of the authors of this study (Gates), averaging a group of smaller U.S. surveys conducted from 2004 to 2008.”
Gallup adds that nonwhites “are more likely than white segments of the U.S. population to identify as LGBT. The survey results show that 4.6% of African-Americans identify as LGBT, along with 4.0% of Hispanics and 4.3% of Asians. The disproportionately higher representation of LGBT status among nonwhite population segments corresponds to the slightly below-average 3.2% of white Americans who identified as LGBT.”
By comparison, the National Opinion Research Center at University of Chicago’s General Social Survey asked a sexual orientation question in its 2008 and 2010 survey of about 2,000 adults in each year. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Survey of Family Growth asked a sexual orientation question of about 12,000 young adults aged 18 to 44 in 2002 and of more than 20,000 adults in its 2006-2010 survey.
Exactly who makes up the LGBT community and how this group should be measured is a subject of some debate. Measuring sexual orientation and gender identity can be challenging since these concepts involve complex social and cultural patterns. As a group still subject to social stigma, many of those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender may not be forthcoming about this identity when asked about it in a survey. Therefore, it’s likely that some Americans in what is commonly referred to as “the closet” would not be included in the estimates derived from the Gallup interviews. Thus, the 3.4% estimate can best be represented as adult Americans who publicly identify themselves as part of the LGBT community when asked in a survey context.
The poll, which included a large number of Americans, 121,290, will become a standard Gallup polling question.
Gallup’s report is far more extensive, and is certain to attract much scrutiny.
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