A new study by the Gallup organization — posed to more than 120,000 U.S. adults thus far — shows that only 3.4 percent said “yes” when asked if they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
The results are based on responses to the question, “Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender?” included in 121,290 Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted between June 1 and Sept. 30, 2012.
According to Gallup, the report is the largest single study of the distribution of the LGBT population in the U.S. on record.
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But Gallup also acknowledged that due to “social stigma” which often leads to pervasive and widespread discrimination, many “closeted” respondents would likely not answer that question truthfully.
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.
Among the report’s findings were:
- Non-white individuals are more likely to identify as LGBT: According to the survey, 4.6 percent of black respondents identified as LGBT, followed by 4.3 percent of Asians, 4 percent of Hispanics, and 3.2 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
- Young Americans are more likely to identify as LGBT: 6.4 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 18-29 identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. For those 65 and older, that figure drops to 1.9 percent.
- LGBT Americans continue to face obstacles both in school and in the workplace: 4 percent of those who didn’t finish college identified as LGBT; while 5 percent of those with incomes lower than $24,000 a year are LGBT.
- LGBT women are just as likely as non-LGBT women to be raising children: both demographics clock in at 3.6 percent.
- The East Coast is home to those most readily identifying as LGBT: 3.7 percent of respondents live there. 3.6 percent report living in the West, while 3.4 and 3.2 percent report living in the Midwest and South, respectively.
A 2011 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law estimated there were than 8 million adults in the U.S. who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual, comprising 3.5% of the adult population.
In its May 2011 annual Values and Beliefs poll, Gallup said that over half of Americans (52 percent) estimate that at least one in five Americans are gay or lesbian, including 35 percent who estimate that more than one in four are. Thirty percent put the figure at less than 15 percent.