A new survey from Gallup shows that the number of Americans that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender has increased to 4.5%. This is up from 4.1% in 2016 and 3.5% in 2012 when the study first started.
The latest estimate is based on over 340,000 interviews conducted as part of Gallup’s daily tracking in 2017. Respondents were asked, “Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?” Extrapolation from latest census estimate of adults 18 and older in the U.S. suggests that more than 11 million adults identify as LGBT.
The increase is primarily driven by millennials, defined as those born between 1980 and 1999. The percentage of millennials who identified as LGBT rose from 5.8% in 2012 to 7.3% in 2016 and 8.1% in 2017. By comparison, the number of Generation X respondents, those born between 1965 and 1979, went from 3.2% to 3.5% between 2016 and 2017, while there was no change in percentages for Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, and traditionalist, those born before 1946.
“A variety of factors can affect the willingness of adults to identify as LGBT,” explains LGBT demographic expert Dr. Gary Gates. “These can include how comfortable and confident survey respondents feel about the confidentiality and privacy of data collected.” It is possible that youngest respondents who are LGBT and feel comfortable with their sexual orientation, are more likely to identify as such. Self-reported LGBT identification among older Americans is much more stable.
The survey also showed an increasing gender gap in LGBT identification, with women at 5.1% in 2017 compared to men at 3.7%. The change for men over time has been minimal, going from 3.4% in 2012 to 3.9% in 2017; whereas women rose from 3.5% in 2012 to 5.1% in 2017, with the largest increase between 2016 and 2017.
LGBT percentages among race and ethnic groups has risen since 2012, but not uniformly. Hispanics are more likely to identify as LGBT in 2017 at 6.1%, up from 5.4% in 2016; while only 4% of whites identify as LGBT, up from 3.6% in 2016. Identification among blacks and Asians were midway between Hispanics and whites. Blacks rose from 4.6% in 2016 to 5% in 2017. Asians who identified at LGBT was 4.9%, unchanged from 2015 and 2016.
Also notable is an increasing income gap, at its largest, with 6.2% of those making less than $36,000 a year in household income identifying as LGBT, compared with 3.9% of those making $90,000 or more. There were no notable differences in LGBT identification by educational attainment.
As Gallup notes in the report, self-identification as LGBT is only one of a number of ways of measuring sexual and gender orientation. The general grouping of these four orientations (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) into one question involves significant simplification, and other measurement techniques which ask about each of these categories individually yield different estimates. The value of the Gallup data is the use of a constant question wording over time and the largest yearly sample sizes of any effort to measure sexual and gender orientation in the United States.