From the increasing legalization of gay marriage to the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” LGBT issues have been in the media a lot over the past decade, but Americans seem to remain confused on a key point: just how many gay Americans are there?
A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Tuesday indicates the number may be a lot lower than most people think.
According to the National Health Interview Survey, 96.6 percent of Americans identify as heterosexual, while 1.6 percent identify as gay or lesbian; 0.7 percent identify as bisexual; and 1.1 percent “don’t know the answer” or are “something else.”
The new statistics are contrary to past estimates: Sex researcher Alfred Kinsey famously estimated 10 percent of men to be “exclusively homosexual” for at least three years of their adult lives. In 2011, a Gallup survey found that U.S. adults estimated 25 percent of their fellow Americans to be homosexual.
But many researchers have consistently questioned those statistics, finding the true prevalence of LGBT identification to be something less than 5 percent.
The new CDC report presents an even lower figure — less than 3 percent of Americans are lesbian, gay or bisexual — though the survey has faced some skepticism.
The survey offered respondents binary choices between straight and gay, with bisexual, “something else” and “I don’t know the answer” thrown in, while LGBT advocates and others often argue that sexual orientation is more of a spectrum than a binary.
Other surveys have found that when presented with broader options, significant percentages of people, especially women, will identify as “mostly heterosexual,” but not strictly straight.
The CDC survey, with a sample size of nearly 35,000 U.S. adults, investigated health issues across different sexual orientations and found a few interesting correlations.
Gay or lesbian respondents were more likely to smoke and binge drink than straight respondents, but they were also more likely to receive flu shots, get tested for HIV/AIDS and meet federal guidelines for aerobic activity.
On broad measures, gay and straight Americans had a lot in common: nearly identical obesity rates, incidence of psychological distress and overall health measures.
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