Britain’s Office for National Statistics concluded just 1.5 percent of its population is gay, a figure a gay dating website promptly learned how to turn into a free publicity exercise. But even others are perplexed by the Brits’ low ball calculation, given common wisdom — and we know how accurate that often is — and the notion at least 10 percent of any standardized sample is queer. ONS, however, isn’t changing its tune. But still, how to explain the drop in gays from years earlier, when estimates ranged from 5-7 percent? The BBC dives in:
So why the discrepancy? Some critics point a finger at the methodology used by the ONS. In several newspapers it was reported that the survey had been conducted on the doorstep, with the ONS turning up without prior notice. Critics argue people are reluctant to talk about their sexuality with a stranger on the doorstep.
But the ONS says this wasn’t the case. The 450,000 people involved were chosen through random sampling and were then sent a letter asking if they wanted to take part. If they did a date was set for someone to visit or interview them over the phone. Each member of the household was interviewed separately using question cards and asked a series of questions on a whole range of issues. The ONS had informed them about the nature of the questions beforehand. Not everyone was asked about sexual preference, says the ONS. Some participants were too young, for example. In total 247,623 people were asked and 238,206 gave a valid response.
This is where I’d float a theory that gays only RSVP to dinner and pool parties, not strangers knocking at their door, but then I remembered: Grindr. So let’s try a different approach:
The way people were able to respond was also important and explained to all participants in advance. Each person was asked the same question, but shown a different question card with a unique number next to each preference. It meant anyone trying to overhear the answer could not tell which category the respondent had selected. The ONS says this method reduced the number of refusals and “don’t knows”. The results show nearly 20% of those who say they are gay, lesbian or bisexual are married and currently living with someone of the opposite sex. “We’re quite confident that the estimate we have is an accurate estimate of self-perceived sexual identity,” says Stephen Hicks from ONS.
So why was last government estimate put at 5% to 7%? The ONS says one reason for the difference is that the latest figure is for sexual perception, not behaviour – two different things. “Someone may engage in sexual behaviour with someone of the same sex but still not perceive themselves as gay,” says a ONS spokeswoman.
Ah! So only 1.5 percent of Brits identify as gay, while freakin’ half of them could be doing it gay style? Suddenly I’m having less buyer’s remorse about my upcoming U.K. jaunt. Hey, “str8” blokes!