New survey: 3.4% of U.S. adults are LGBT

A Gallup survey finds LGBT Americans at lower education and income levels.

What’s being touted as the largest study ever aimed at counting the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population finds that 3.4% of adults across the USA identify as being part of the LGBT community.

Based on interviews with more than 121,000 individuals, the Gallup survey released Thursday shakes up some stereotypes: LGBT identity is highest among those who are younger, non-white and less educated.

“It helps to counter what I think are some inappropriate stereotypes of the LGBT community,” says the report’s lead author, demographer Gary Gates of the Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles. “If you spend a lot of time watching network television, you would think most LGBT people are rich white men who live in big cities. These data suggest the LGBT community reflects more of the diversity in the U.S. population.”

The phone survey, conducted over the summer, finds:

— 4.6% of blacks, 4.3% of Asians, 4% of Hispanics and 3.2% of whites identify themselves as LGBT.

— LGBT identification is highest among those who attended but did not graduate college, 4%. Among those with a high school education or less, 3.5% identify as LGBT, compared with 2.8% of those with a college degree and 3.2% of those with postgraduate education.

— Younger Americans, ages 18-29, are three times more likely than those ages 65 and older to identify as LGBT (6.4% vs. 1.9%).

— Among ages 18-29, 8.3% of women vs. 4.6% of men identify as LGBT.

— More than 5% of those with annual incomes of less than $24,000 identify as LGBT, compared with 2.8% of those who earn more than $60,000 a year.

Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that represents LGBT families, says the survey “reaffirms what we already were seeing in our community.”

“The American public will find those statistics surprising, but we know from our work on the ground that that is actually very consistent,” she says.

Gates says the educational and economic data may be somehow influenced by the fact that “there is a difference between people who identify as lesbian and gay and people who identify as bisexual or transgender.”

“Oftentimes surveys show higher fractions who are white or have higher levels of education, but they are just measuring the L and G. Gallup puts everyone together,” he says.

He says just adding another question defining whether individuals are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender was too costly for now.

However, the self-reporting does suggest that there’s an undercount of those who might want to remain closeted, suggests sociologist Brian Powell of Indiana University in Bloomington.

“The 3.4% figure is right on target on how people define themselves, but it may underestimate greatly people who have had same-sex relations,” he says.

As for the strength in numbers argument that greater numbers mean more political clout:

“It’s not as important to convince Americans that there are a lot of LGBT people,” Gates says. “At one time, it may have been important. But today, it’s more important to convince Americans what the real lives of LGBT people are like. As a given, Americans just assume there are a lot of LGBT people already.”

by Sharon Jayson
Source – USA Today