Perception of LGBT* Individuals: An Overestimation of the LGBT* Population Size

With the American Supreme Court’s ruling prohibiting the ban of same sex marriage, LGBT* issues have been at the forefront of public discourse. Gallup reports that despite the increased exposure of LGBT* individuals into mainstream media, many Americans continue the trend of drastically overestimating the percentage of LGBT* individuals in America:




“The American public estimates on average that 23% of Americans are gay or lesbian, These estimates are many times higher than the 3.8% of the adult population who identified themselves as [LGBT*]

Measuring and counting LGBT* peoples can be difficult as defining and classifying LGBT* peoples raises many different questions about what defines LGBT* identities. LGBT* peoples can be identified and classified using many different dimensions such as self-identification, attraction, and sexual behavior.  

Furthermore, stigmas related to identifying as LGBT* may be a factor causing a lower amount of LGBT* people to elect to identify as LGBT* in surveys.


While these stigmas represent a real obstacle to research into LGBT* populations, Pew Research Center reports American’s are facing an ideological shift towards the social acceptance of LGBT people:
  • Roughly 57% of Americans say they would not be upset if they had a child come out as gay or lesbian, up from 9% in 1985.
  • 63% of Americans said gay and lesbian relationships were morally acceptable, up from 38% of Americans who said the same in 2002.
  • 60% of Americans favored legalized same-sex marriage today, up from 35% who favored it in 1999


This cultural shift may be evident in what age demographics decide to identify as LGBT*. Adults aged 18 to 29 (6.4%) are more than three times as likely as seniors aged 65 and older (1.9%) to identify as LGBT. This change reflects a changing attitude among young people towards LGBT* acceptance and legitimacy.

Key Points:
  • The American public estimates on average that 23% of Americans are gay or lesbian. These estimates are many times higher than the 3.8% of the adult population who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender
  • Part of the explanation for the inaccurate estimates of the gay and lesbian population rests with Americans' general unfamiliarity with numbers and demography.
  • Measuring LGBT* peoples presents its own set of complexities as it can be difficult and controversial defining and classifying LGBT* people
  • A general cultural shift is occurring towards the normalization of LGBT* and its acceptance.
Read More:
http://www.gallup.com/poll/183383/americans-greatly-overestimate-percent-gay-lesbian.aspx?utm_source=SAME_SEX_RELATIONS&utm_medium=topic&utm_campaign=tiles
http://www.gallup.com/poll/158066/special-report-adults-identify-lgbt.aspx?utm_source=LGBT&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=tiles
http://www.gallup.com/poll/154634/Acceptance-Gay-Lesbian-Relations-New-Normal.aspx
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/06/29/most-americans-now-say-learning-their-child-is-gay-wouldnt-upset-them/ft_16-06-26_gaychild/
http://www.gallup.com/poll/183332/majority-say-gays-lesbians-born-not-made.aspx?utm_source=Social%20Issues&utm_medium=newsfeed&utm_campaign=tiles
http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Gates-LLR-Spring-2012.pdf

Exercises:
Age and Attitudes about the Rights of Homosexuals: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (http://teachingwithdata.org/resource/3237) 
Social Change: A Data Driven Learning Guide (http://teachingwithdata.org/resource/3458)
Robert Schwarzhaupt

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