WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. adults, on average, estimate that 25% of Americans are gay or lesbian. More specifically, over half of Americans (52%) estimate that at least one in five Americans are gay or lesbian, including 35% who estimate that more than one in four are. Thirty percent put the figure at less than 15%.
Just your best guess, what percent of Americans today would you say are gay or lesbian? 2002 and 2011 Trend
The findings, from a Gallup poll conducted May 5-8, 2011, mark the second time Gallup has asked Americans to estimate the gay population. In 2002, Gallup used two separate questions to ask Americans to estimate the percentage of gay men and lesbians. At that time, Americans estimated that 21% of men were gay and that 22% of women were lesbian. Twice as many did not offer an opinion as do now.
There is little reliable evidence about what percentage of the U.S. population is in reality gay or lesbian, due to few representative surveys asking about sexual orientation, complexities surrounding the groups and definitions involved, and the probability that some gay and lesbian individuals may not choose to identify themselves as such. Demographer Gary Gates last month released a review of population-based surveys on the topic, estimating that 3.5% of adults in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, with bisexuals making up a slight majority of that figure. Gates also disputes the well-circulated statistic that "10% of the males are more or less exclusively homosexual."
Americans' current collective estimate -- which is substantially higher than Gates suggests -- is likely driven more by perceptions and exposure than by scientific measurement or reality.