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3.4% of Americans identify as LGBT
Gay Pride participants celebrate in New York last summer. A new poll sheds new light on the LGBT community's diversity.
October 19th, 2012
11:15 AM ET

3.4% of Americans identify as LGBT

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) – Measuring the nation's gay population has always been tricky. Those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are still subject to social stigma, and many are not comfortable answering questions about their identity.

But in the largest survey of its kind conducted by Gallup, 3.4% of all Americans identified themselves as part of the LGBT community.

Gallup interviewed 120,000 Americans and found that the highest percentages of LGBT identification occurred among non-white, younger and less educated Americans.

Demographer Gary Gates said the survey sheds light on the diversity and complexity of the LGBT community.

"They offer an unprecedented resource for informing LGBT-related debates like those regarding marriage, parenting and workplace discrimination with much-needed facts rather than stereotype or anecdote," said Gates, a scholar with the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute, which researches sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

The survey differs from the 2010 census, which for the first time measured sexual orientation. But the census counted same-sex partners and same-sex spouses - 516,396 households.

Of note in the latest Gallup survey, released Thursday, is the fact that non-whites are more likely to identify themselves as LGBT than whites, which challenges common belief that large numbers of the community are white, male and wealthy.

The Gallup poll showed that 4.6% of African-Americans identify as LGBT along with 4% of Latinos and 4.3% of Asian-Americans. Only 3.2% of white Americans say they are LGBT.

More women - 3.6% - identified as LGBT than men - 3.3%. That means 53% of the LGBT community are women.

And, perhaps not surprisingly,  younger adults between the ages of 18 and 29 were more than three times as likely as seniors 65 and older to identify as LGBT - 6.4% of younger Americans said they were LGBT versus 1.9% of older people.

The new survey showed LGBT identification is highest among Americans with the lowest levels of education. Of 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 post-graduate education. LGBT identification is highest among those with some college education but not a college degree, at 4.0%.

How will America's LGBT population affect the presidential election?

Gallup found that 44% of LGBT Americans identify as Democratic; 43% as independent; and only 13% as Republican. That compares to 32% of non-LGBT Americans who identify as Democratic, 39% as independent, and 30% as Republican. The respective numbers in the non-LGBT community are 32% Democratic, 39% independent and 30% Republican.

"Given the strong Democratic tilt of the LGBT population, it is not surprising that registered voter preferences of LGBT Americans tilt strongly - but not monolithically - toward Barack Obama," the  survey said. "Specifically, 71% of LGBT Americans who are registered voters support Obama, while 22% support Mitt Romney."

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Gender • Sexual orientation • Who we are
soundoff (707 Responses)
  1. margarita

    I am sick and tired of this thing. Is unbelievable that we have to change laws only for the 3%. They are minority but they have a big mouth and make to much noise.

    April 24, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. John McNeil

    Great bumpkin post...you've truly made a great contribution to the discussion. Clearly, who would expect otherwise.

    December 2, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. there goes the election

    Obama is going to get this 3.4% and then the african american vote, and the latino vote, and all the government employees and anyone who is in a Union, and of course 100% of the liberal vote. How can Romney win, or how can a Republican win anymore in this country, unless the republican party changes drastically.

    November 6, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glenn

      Sending jobs elsewhere and the growing number of people without healthcare does seem to favor the Democrats.

      If one wanted or needed healthcare and your employer was unwilling or unable to provide it where else would one turn except government. Even a private plan needs cash which requires a decent paying job.

      Republicans don't seem to want to understand.

      November 30, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff

    how does this affect the "pride" at the parades? down from 10% to 3.4%, and representing the less educated... just saying.

    November 6, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • D987654321

      Probably because there's still stigma, discrimination, hostility, bullying, violence, murder? Or did that not occur to you? Clearly more than half of LGBT members don't feel SAFE coming out.

      December 1, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
      • jeremy

        LOL nice cover your just mad because your smaller than you had hope to be...sad huh LOL

        December 6, 2012 at 5:08 am | Report abuse |
  5. Rom-No!

    Is it just me, or does this article completely ignore the fact that an entire generation of gays was decimated by AIDS?

    November 6, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      It was a start.

      November 6, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. RafaelT

    I'm a Man, and a Lesbian, and Proud of it!

    November 6, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ND

    I really don't understand the comments of people who are basically saying, "It's only 3.4% of the population, why are we catering to their needs?" By that logic, I guess that we shouldn't try to respect the rights of individuals with autism or schizophrenia – both around 1% of the population. Seems ridiculous to me!

    November 6, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. rh

    Why doesn't anyone care about atheists? There are a HECK of a lot more of us out there than LGBT. And probably a lot of LGBT are atheists too....

    Being an atheist stays in the closet a lot more than one's LGBT status...

    November 6, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt in Oregon

      Good point. As an atheist I know that we are one of the few groups in America that is safe to openly spew hatred about. It is becoming taboo in this country, as it should be, to insult gays. We need to make it known that insulting people who do not subscribe to any particular religion is just as unacceptable.

      November 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Collin

      Not really. Gallup polls show that even though 20% of Americans are irreligious, only 4%-6% are atheists. Irreligious includes Agnostics, Atheists, Deists, Pantheists, Apatheists, Universalists, and even Theists who don't prescribe to any religion in particular.

      November 24, 2012 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
  9. Wolfgang

    3.4% does not even come close to 1 in 3 or 33% like the link states, someone needs to back to primary school!!! MAJOR MATH FAIL!!! ROFL!!!!!!

    November 6, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      I agree with the math goof, but it's no less than your poor print-communication.

      November 6, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • rh

      This is VERY similar to the numbers posted at the college I attended in the 80's – 3 in 10 students are LGBT – so if you look around at 10 people, three are LGBT.

      Going to frat parties, it didn't appear that way at all...

      November 6, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheTruth

      Would this mean that 96.6 % is straight?

      November 6, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ryan

    I'm sure someone has already pointed this out but 3.4% doesn't equal 1 in 3 americans like the link to this article states.....basic math FAIL.

    November 6, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • confusedguy

      Thanks Ryan. I literally just asked about this, thinking 1 in 3 means 33%.

      November 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JoeReb

    Seek the Trinity first, then self control.

    November 4, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      Interesting. What about the Trinity is NOT gay. I'm created in God's image ... no different than an African, or Asian person. I didn't come out being gay, I was born gay. This whole stupid argument is arianism guised as pseudo-Christianity. The Messiah said WORD BOO about being gay, but did say we no longer live under the LAW, but live by grace. And, BTW, what do you think Paul's 'thorn in the flesh' might have been. Direct your nose to study Roman military tactics. Many FRONT LINE roman soldiers were gay - and they would NOT let their partner be killed. Hmm.... and Paul was a soldier...and prayed about something that wouldn't change ... and openly was the only one who talked about the issue of 'affeminism.' Physician heal thyself.

      November 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. The_Mick

    "Of note in the latest Gallup survey, released Thursday, is the fact that non-whites are more likely to identify themselves as LGBT than whites, which challenges common belief that large numbers of the community are white, male and wealthy."
    +++++ This incredible display of mathematical imbecility is why colleges should require journalism majors to take a rigorous course in statistics. The article says 4.6% to 4% of non-White groups (call it a 4.3% average) are LGBT while only 3.2% of Whites are. Since 66% of Americans are non-Hispanic while that means roughly 100% x 66*3.2/(66*3.2+34*4.3) = 59% of LGBT's are White. So it SUPPORTS, does NOT "challenge" that most LGBTs are White.

    November 4, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  13. Common Sense

    Was I the only one to notice the word 'identify'? Simply because only 3.4% of the population 'identifies' as being LGBT does not mean there are others who have gay tendencies but don't want to publicly admit it. If you took a survey of how many people identified as being racist, I'm sure the numbers would be far less than the actual amount of people who ARE racist. (Note the word change there from identify to are.) So, to say that the younger population has been influenced into being gay based on these numbers or that it is an accurate estimate of the gay population is completely false. There are thousands of people out there who are too scared (and from a lot of the comments on here, they have good reason to be) to admit they are gay or grew up in a time where you got married and hope it fixed you. I personally think the number is somewhere between 5% to 7%. There is a whole other set of people out there who belong in this survey because they didn't 'identify' as being part of the LGBT community. There are plenty of people on here who wouldn't identify as being ignorant, though they would belong in that category, too.

    November 2, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. lex

    What ever happened to the 10%? Itwas a big lie meant to scare the politicians. Well, it worked. So now gays are the preferred class, especially over white straight males, who are now at the bottom of the heap.

    Let's find a cure a cure for cancer by diverting money and attention from aids, now that its clear the special interest group that got all that money and attention for aids research, is only about 1/3rd the size it was presented as.

    November 2, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. B Schmitt

    So if ONLY 3.4% of Americans are LGBT; YET THERE IS SO MUCH MEDIA COVERAGE YOU THINK THE LGBT ARE THE MAJORITY! IT'S A SHAME THAT EVEN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS ALL LGBT! AND ABORTION!
    SO, THOSE LIKE ME WHO ARE CONSERVATIVE DEMOCRATS ARE NOW BECOMING REPUBLICANS!

    November 2, 2012 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
    • clearsight

      1) All caps is for children.
      2) Why on god's green earth would you join the republican party just on the account of the democrats vigorously defending gay rights and abortion rights? Is it because a couple of written verses from the invisible man in the sky told you so?

      November 2, 2012 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
    • me2

      sorry but is the republicans that have made gays and abortions into THE issues to rally against...many GOP voters will be voting on just these 2 issues...oh and the fact that obama is black

      November 2, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
      • cindy

        What ever!!

        November 6, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Daniel Knight

    Yeah, they sure to identify at LGBT, I like to identify at Chinese food restaurants and churches, identifying at them is fun.

    November 1, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Mensaboy

    Another yawner article.

    November 1, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel Knight

      Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawn. This useful comment provided to you by eternian.tk. Where people go to read how awful atheists are.

      November 1, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Haroldwolf

    Why are we letting less than 5% of our population have such a impact on our laws and culture?

    November 1, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marxist

      Because, like the article says, there is still stigma on LGBT, so the actual percentage is more like 99%.

      November 2, 2012 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
    • EqualityNow

      Its called equality. Look it up.

      November 2, 2012 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
    • me2

      not to mention this is a gallup poll which means inaccurate

      November 2, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pagan2012

      I agree. Why do we let evangelical christians, a tiny minority in this country, dictate the liberties, rights and resonsibilities for all Americans?

      November 3, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  19. White Latino

    Thirty-six percent of Latinos identify their race as white, according to the Pew Hispanic survey. Remember, Hispanic/Latino is an ethnicity, not a race.

    October 25, 2012 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
  20. krehator

    I'm all for equality. Everyone is supposed to be equal, but what most minorities want is equal and also special.

    October 23, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris in NC

      Special how, exactly?

      November 2, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • cindy

      Exactly krehator.

      November 6, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Dem

    This is soooo inaccurate. I've slept with enough married "straight" men to know otherwise

    October 23, 2012 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
    • population census

      Well you must do a lot of sleeping around because 3.4% of our current population is 10.7 million people. I think that's probably a pretty accurate representation of the LBGT community.

      November 2, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  22. cutedog2

    "120,000 Americans and found that the highest percentages of LGBT identification occurred among non-white, younger and less educated Americans."
    I am not sure this paints a positive light on this community

    October 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC

      Why? Younger and less educated Americans have a lot lees to lose by admitting their orientation. They are less likely to lose agood job or even their family.

      As the stigma falls away, those numbers will completely change.

      October 22, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Robert

    forgive me for being so dumb, but what does LGBT sant for?

    October 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • cutedog2

      It is clarified in the article's first paragraph.

      October 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  24. noone

    so if their taking over does this mean int he future all babies will be surrogate babies? or will their be breeders?

    October 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • sefs

      CORRECTED: "So if they're taking over, will all babies born in the future be surrogate babies? Or will there be breeders?".... I'm more worried about the alarming percentage of the population who struggle through life without an education....

      October 21, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
      • Nathan

        Absolutely. Learn to write before making comments.

        October 24, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  25. lex

    We were told for years that 10% of the population is gay. And the politicians trembled. What happened to the 6.6%? Did they never exist and, therefore, the political foundation for the movement was a lie, or did they exist and are no longer gay. Or is this just one more piece of crappy research?

    October 21, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Ben Rast

      Are you saying that you've never heard of a popularly bandied about statistic that is both false and somewhat mysterious as to its origin? Or are you saying that you're incapable of rational thought? Or are you just a disingenuous troll that thinks that attacking straw men some how makes your larger point more valid?

      October 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
      • Juan

        I am a young Mexican practicing Catholic. I don't hate gay people, I am very close to a gay person and he is a good guy. But I don't think gay marriage should be legal, because I think the family is the basic social unit and a family is one man and one woman. Remember, outlawing certain groups from marrying isn't unprecedented. Siblings or cousins can't marry, because it is harmful to society. Nor can a man marry multiple women or vice versa. So I don't hate, I just think. Please don't respond hatefully because I am leaving now.

        November 3, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
      • cindy

        Good post Juan.

        November 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC

      Did you read the article? The true numbers are above the 6% range, as evidenced by the fact that young folks are a lot less likely to be closeted than the older crowd.

      And even in the younger groups, there will STILL be a significant percentage afraid or unwilling to out themselves in a poll, so the actual numbers would be a bit higher again.

      October 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • EqualityNow

      Most people ( like my self) keep my orientation to myself. Its none of anyones business unless I feel the need to tell someone and feel comfortable that they won't judge me based on how I was born. The 10% is an estimate but its pretty accurate and you will see that in the decades to come these numbers will increase because society will become more accepting of our difference. There are a lot of us already out there....... we just choose not to tell people.

      November 2, 2012 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  26. Anthony

    I find this article and the study hard to believe. I know gay. It may not be the Kinsey 10% but I'm confident it's in the 7% range that lines up with the young identifying themselves as LGBT. It would be obvious that the poor, young, uneducated and minority would have nothing to loose admitting to be part of a stygmatized minority. If the rich, white, old, educated gays who have something to loose stood up these stats would be different.

    October 20, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Izoto

      It's 3.4 %, deal with it. That's what happens when you hold on to pre-conceived notions like they're fact, assumptions aren't your friend. This happens all the time, your shock is nothing new.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  27. krehator

    People have the right to be what they want. I support them in their pursuit of happiness.

    Just don't talk about "freedom" when you think you can force your lifestyle on others, gay or straight.

    October 20, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • geeky

      No one is forcing you to be gay. We just ask that you let us marry and have equal treatment under the law. Your life would not change one iota if gay people could get married. In fact, if this fight was over, you'd probably see a lot less of us in the media.

      October 21, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
      • Look up

        1969 p l a nned pa ren thood Jeffe memo says otherwise.

        October 21, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Code

    Our founding fathers are turning in their graves. This country was built upon 1 man and 1 woman being united in marriage, and the LGBT group is destroying it relationship by relationship. That South Carolina pastor had never spoken more truer words several months ago.

    October 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harsh

      I thought the US was built on the idea of democarcy, inclusiveness and tolerance and thats what made it the great nation it is. And outstanding leaders like Lincoln also improved on the ideal when he fought for the minority African Americans to be free from slavery. Similar points about destroying the country were made then. A country always looks ahead and not to the past. And the more inclusive a country is, the more secure and progressive it is

      October 21, 2012 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Ben Rast

      All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
      -14th Amendment, Section 1

      Actually, our country was founded on the rule of law to protect the very minorities you would seek to bury under your bigotry

      October 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC

      I thought large portions of it was built on the backs of slaves . . .

      October 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • EqualityNow

      Are you serious? your founding fathers, really? The whole destroying marriage thing is religious propaganda! I've been with my WIFE and I am a women for 5 years and its been the best 5 years of my life! Up here in Canada we are legally married. Gay marriage has been legal nation wide since 2006 and nothing bad has happened. Maybe your economy would improve if you would let that large percent of your population marry? Marriage is about love not oops the condom broke.

      November 2, 2012 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
    • pattysboi

      Exactly how is the "LGBT group relationship by relationship destroying" anything? It's not.

      November 2, 2012 at 2:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Glenn

      I doubt the founding fathers would have even debated the issue. Societies which become polarized for any reason including religious tend to cover everything up.......like pedaphiles in the church or wife beatings. Growing up in the sixties even divorce was stilled frowned on.
      It all looks right....but it isn't.

      November 12, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Gadflie

    Nothing but repealing DADT and instructing the justice department to not defend DOMA. That's more than any other president has ever done.

    October 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Andrew

    I think we should segregate whatever demographic you belong to and take away your civil liberties. then we'll see if the economy is still the only thing you think about.

    October 20, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Andrew

    I have the feeling that most likely the rate of LGBT people in each demographic is the same- what's different are the social pressures that stop people from being open about it.

    October 20, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
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