On Friday, Gallup released the results of a new poll based on responses to the question, “Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender?”
With 206,186 participants, the study represents the largest single study of the LGBT population distribution on record and the first of its kind to break down estimates by state. The percentage of U.S. adults who identify as LGBT ranges from 1.7 percent in North Dakota to 10 percent in the District of Columbia (not a state, but whatever), while the national average is 3.5 percent.
While interesting, the study is by no means comprehensive or conclusive. The data collection method, while expeditious, is fairly suspect. Results are based on telephone interviews; strangers called people’s homes across the country and asked them point-blank, “Are you gay?” and, “How much money do you make?” People are guarded about such matters when confronted with invasive questioning that carries potential repercussions, particularly if the respondent lives in a homophobic neck of the woods.
It’s no secret that gays flock to metro areas. All the results indicate is that D.C., like New York City, is a big gay-friendly bubble. More than 40 percent of New York State residents live in New York City. That said, should not 40 percent of the participants in New York State be from New York City? And in California, what percentage of those interviewed live in highly-populated Los Angeles or highly-gay San Francisco? With a margin for error of ±6 percent, I suppose one should take the this dubious study with a grain of salt.
Here’s the thing: Sexual identity is personal and complex, on a vast spectrum that defies quantification. 3.5 percent is a low estimate, says this non-statistician’s common sense.