Gallup, perhaps the most respected name in polling, has released a new survey purporting to indicate what percentage of Americans are gay, by state.
Between June and December of last year, more than 200,00 respondents were asked “Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender?”
The variance from state to state was astounding: In North Dakota, 1.7% answered “yes,” while in Washington, DC, a full 10% did. Hawaiians said yes, while in Montana Mississippi and Tennessee, only 2.6% did. Still, discounting the District, all 50 states were within two percentage points of the 3.5% nationwide average Gallup announced last October.
But can a phone survey really quantify something like sexual orientation or gender identity? Are they in the same category? A person can be both bisexual and transgender—or not prefer those hard-and-fast labels at all. And the survey can’t count the number of respondents who don’t feel comfortable disclosing their homosexuality to a stranger on a phone but might be out to some degree in their daily lives.
Gallup researchers explained:
Measuring sexual orientation and gender identity can be challenging because these concepts involve complex social and cultural patterns. There are a number of ways to measure lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientation, and transgender status.
Gallup chose a broad measure of personal identification as LGBT because this grouping of four statuses is commonly used in current American discourse, and as a result has important cultural and political significance.
One limitation of this approach is that it is not possible to separately consider differences among lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, or transgender individuals. A second limitation is that this approach measures broad self-identity, and does not measure sexual or other behavior, either past or present.
Below is the full rundown. Do the numbers jibe for you?