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 (676 Responses)
  1. RafaelT

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

    November 6, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. 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 |
  3. 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 |
  4. 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 |
  5. 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 |
  6. 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 |
  7. 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 |
  8. 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 |
  9. 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 |
  10. B Schmitt


    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 |
  11. 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 |
  12. 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 |
  13. 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 |
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