UK Government Survey: 1.5 Percent of Population is Gay

A new survey from the UK's Office for National Statistics, the largest pool for social data after the Census, reveals that 1.5% percent of the UK's population is gay, a number much smaller than previously estimated, the Guardian reports:

Uk "The findings, based on interviews with more than 450,000 people – …show that an estimated 481,000 people regard themselves as gay and a further 245,000 – mainly women – say they are bisexual. The estimate puts Britain's gay community at 1.5% of the total population – much lower than the most commonly used estimate of 5% to 7%, which was cited by ministers introducing civil partnership legislation and implied a non-heterosexual population of 3.5 million. The ONS said the higher estimate was based on different sampling methods and responses to questions about sexual attraction and behaviour both in the past and present. The latest detailed figures show that gay people are much more likely to be in managerial or professional occupations – 49% compared with 30% for straight workers – and better educated, with 38% holding a degree. Their age profile is also much younger than the rest of the population, with 66% under the age of 44 and 17% aged 16 to 24. Just over 45% of the gay community are cohabiting, although only 8% live in a household with at least one child present. A third of bisexual households include at least one child. London is home to the highest concentration of gay people at 2.2% of the population, while this proportion falls to 0.9% in Northern Ireland."

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay rights group Stonewall, said the data collection process may have rendered certain inaccuracies:

"We warmly welcome these figures as Stonewall’s pushed for this information for some time. However this is the first time that people were asked and data collection happened on doorsteps or over the phone, which may deter people from giving accurate responses – particularly if someone isn’t openly-gay at home. Stonewall now works with 600 major employers and their experience is that these statistics increase when you regularly ask about sexual orientation as part of general monitoring information. We’d expect to see these figures increase over time as people’s confidence in the survey grows and sexual orientation becomes a routine part of data collection."

Comments

  1. says

    I’m not surprised by the low figure for Northern Ireland…..it is a virulantly and violantly homophobic society unlike the Republic of Ireland to the south which is gay friendly and welcomes gay life and culture, including the gay theatre festival and gay film fest every year.

    I noticed that the city of Dublin had all rainbow flags flying along the river this year…..and not only during the theatre/film fest.

  2. Wes says

    You can’t find out by asking people. They often can’t even be honest with themselves, much less other people.

    Do a survey in Jamaica and see how many people are willing to tell you they’re gay.

  3. says

    @WES : I agree , no one is going to tell an interviewer personal details……nor should they.
    From experience, the population of gays is certainly a lot higher…..
    Just ask people if they are related to someone who is gay, or know someone who is gay…..I bet the result will be completely different .

  4. TampaZeke says

    Want to see how inaccurate that survey is?

    Do a survey where you go up to people’s doorstep and ask them if they masturbate. Then check the results. It will be very clear how unreliable it is to take a survey about something so personal in such a way.

    I have no doubt that most of us here would have told a survey taker, at some point in our lives, that we were straight. I’m sure that there are some of us who are out and proud who would have given an incorrect answer to a random stranger taking a survey, even today.

    The only way to get a real and accurate survey is to bypass the conscious mind through physiological test like the brain scan test. There will always be homosexually oriented people who will deny to their dying day that they are homosexual.

  5. justiceontherocks says

    Even assuming you can successfully define what “gay” is, cultural forces are such that any attempt to determine the size of the “gay” population are little better than guesswork. That said, the percentage in London (2.2%) has no credibility. Triple that is closer, I’m sure.

  6. ratbastard says

    Surveys regarding sexual orientation and other private matters are not accurate. It’s next to impossible to get a real accurate figure because so many people lie.

  7. Really? says

    I’m almost certain I could find up to as many as 20 (no less than 13) people who are gay out of any given group about 100 in number.

    Just look at the detailed statistics they give…characteristics like those could not possibly exist if they were getting an accurate representation.

  8. daniel says

    umm does this make sense-

    The findings, based on interviews with more than 450,000 people – …show that an estimated 481,000 people regard themselves as gay and a further 245,000 – mainly women – say they are bisexual.

  9. Really? says

    ROFL, you’re right. The total is way ‘understated’. If they have REAL numbers to post in the first place, why is that one [minor] detail estimated in such a way?

  10. Dan Cobbb says

    Everything in this study suggests:

    1) that older people are less inclined to tell a stranger that they are gay than younger people;

    2) that people in rural areas are less likely to admit to a stranger that they are gay than urban folk;

    3) that not all people will freely tell a stranger that they are gay;

    4) the poll does not say how many people refused to answer and were thus not counted in the poll.

    These types of polls are absurd –the only thing that can really be said of the poll is that 1.5% of the people are gay people who are willing to tell a complete stranger that they are gay. That’s it.

  11. Charlie says

    It should be noted that the UK group welcomes the report. In Washington DC the CDC agreed to add a question on sexual orientation to their health survey. The is the percentages they report

    “In 2005 and 2007, a combined 6,218 residents in the District participated in the BRFSS survey. Almost 90% of the respondents identified as heterosexual, 4.5% of the respondents identified as gay or lesbian and 2.3% identified as bisexual or other.”

    This was a telephone survey using a random sample and was the first time that any jurisdiction had include collecting information from the GLB community on their health issues. Instead of praising the Mayor’s office for doing this groundbreaking effort all the community did is complain that the transgender population wasn’t included. Like people are going to answer honestly to “I’m with the Federal government. Could you tell me are you transgender?”

    But this is a start.

  12. says

    This survey is way-off. London is 2.2% gay? Ha! And, ‘London is home to the highest concentration of gay people at 2.2% of the population’. Isn’t Brighton 15-20% gay according to the local government?

  13. Anastasia Beaverhausen says

    A stranger calls you or stands on your doorstep demanding to know if you’re gay. You think about the couple down the street whose house was vandalized last week. “Um, no, of course not!”

    Meanwhile, the rest of the world knows that ‘British’ means ‘Gay-until-proven-otherwise’.

  14. Bad Humor Boy says

    These numbers suggest that, outside of the Islamic World, Britain still has the world’s leading per capita “Closet Case” population. I agree with other comments here. These numbers are flawed and unrepresentative. Nonetheless, despite recent legislative strides in bringing equality to Brit’s gays, there remain long-standing traditional conventions opposing this. Closet cases factor the economic, social, and other risks involved in coming out against those prevailing conventions. It’s an accommodation that perpetuates them and renders the security of those factors all the more fragile and at risk. It’s generational, and I expect the last vestiges of this will barely be discernable in most of Britain within a decade.
    I am not as optimistic about our achieving as much in that time frame here in the US. As for strangers on the phone, at my door or on the street asking personal questions, I take some delight in skewing any numbers they are collecting! I don’t know what these people are marketing, and I don’t care. I’m not a consumer. I’m a human being! I suspect a lot of Brits feel the same way.

  15. Paul R says

    I get survey calls ALL THE TIME (it’s starting to drive me nuts), most of them political in nature. If the person sounds pleasant and assures me it’s a brief survey, I’ll participate because I like to ask them questions about what other people say.

    The surveys often ask if I consider myself gay, bi, straight, etc., and I say gay. Then I ask how many other people say they’re gay. Every single surveyer has said almost no one—like 2-3 percent at most. And I live in San Francisco, and I know that some of these surveys are funded to see how gays will be voting on certain issues or candidates.

    So yeah, I agree that this poll is a joke. Especially the London part!

  16. Paul R says

    I get survey calls ALL THE TIME (it’s starting to drive me nuts), most of them political in nature. If the person sounds pleasant and assures me it’s a brief survey, I’ll participate because I like to ask them questions about what other people say.

    The surveys often ask if I consider myself gay, bi, straight, etc., and I say gay. Then I ask how many other people say they’re gay. Every single surveyer has said almost no one—like 2-3 percent at most. And I live in San Francisco, and I know that some of these surveys are funded to see how gays will be voting on certain issues or candidates.

    So yeah, I agree that this poll is a joke. Especially the London part!

  17. Bob R says

    If gay people woke up tomorrow with blue skin I think a lot of people would be shocked at the true number that comprises the G/L community. I’m willing to wager it will be far higher than 1.5% and maybe close to 10% a little more or less. What is not counted are those in denial and those still struggling with their sexual identity and those who will just outright lie and deny their sexuality, like Roy Cohn, a heterosexual man that just happens to have sex with men.

  18. Distingue Traces says

    I don’t really see why it’s important whether there are lots of us. Interesting, sure — but fighting for a large percentage as if it were a point of pride doesn’t make much sense to me.

    It’s not as if a difference between 1.5% and 2.3% is going to make much odds in terms of demographic clout anyway.

  19. Zach says

    “I don’t really see why it’s important whether there are lots of us. Interesting, sure — but fighting for a large percentage as if it were a point of pride doesn’t make much sense to me.

    It’s not as if a difference between 1.5% and 2.3% is going to make much odds in terms of demographic clout anyway.”

    Because a larger percentage means more economic and political clout, that’s why. You can be idealistic all you want, but numbers matter, and as history has shown, 10% of the population being denied rights is much harder to dismiss than 1.5%.

    I don’t think many here would argue that the statistics are off by 0.8%, either. They’re off by a significant amount. I won’t comment on the United Kingdom, but in the United States, virtually everyone knows someone who is gay, either through work, relation, or community.

    Give it a generation or so of rights progression. You’ll easily find 7-8% admitting to being gay.

  20. Justin says

    I was one of those surveyed!!!

    Initially, I ignored the guy whom came buzzing my door, because I just assumed he was trying to sell insurance or something. I think that was the Monday.

    He called again on the Wednesday. When I peeked through my blinds again, realising it was the same bloke unnerved me somewhat. When I emptied my mailbox, I had an official-looking letter, saying I’d been chosen to take part in the survey.

    When he called again on the Friday, I let him in.

    He sat in an armchair while I sat on my couch, tapping away on a laptop, asking me questions verbally and then typing in my answers.

    Strangely, the question about Sexual Orientation was one of only two questions which weren’t asked verbally (I think the other one may have been about religion).

    When the question came up, he passed me a laminated card with numbered options; like “1” for heterosexual, “2” for homosexual, and so on… I had to answer with a number. I think there were five or six options.

    If I were closeted and lived with my family (rather than out and living alone), I may have felt pressured to shout out another number. I could easily imagine my mother snatching the card from me to take a look, if she were sat next to me on the couch.

    Also, if 95% of respondents answered that they were resolutely heterosexual, doesn’t that mean that 5% could be classed as non-heterosexual?

  21. One in a Hundred? says

    That’s not even enough gays to maintain the theatre district!

    So about one percent of people asked in their own home will admit to a complete stranger that they are gay. So what.

  22. Owain says

    Not mentioned in this article, but on the BBC:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11398629

    “The data showed that 95% said they were heterosexual, 1% gay or lesbian, 0.5% bisexual, 0.5% other, and the remaining 3% either did not know or did not answer.”

    So that’s 5% _not straight_. Which is rather a lot more, and closer to what we already knew, and contradicts all the Daily Wail headlines about “Only 1% of people are gay after all!” linked to this now.

  23. GregV says

    I’ve given misleading answers to surveys like this in the past, when I was in a social environment where it was not safe being out.
    As far as I was concerned in that atmosphere, there was no such thing as an “anonymous” survey. In fact, I remember tabulating some anonymous surveys in college, and you can’t help but know who filled some of them out:
    “Green pen? I remember the lady who filled out that one. A survey folded into a tiny package? Ihat was that fussy guy with big glasses who handed me that one.”
    And what if someone were to walk in and look over my shoulder just after I had checked the “homosexual” box. Nope, I would just have to check “hetero” even though it was a bold-faced lie.
    So now looking at the results of this survey, I can just imagine some 19 year-old being asked by this stranger to rate his sexuality on a scale while Grandma is bringing in tea from the kitchen (or maybe sitting in her rocking chair being asked the same questions). And, isn’t this surveyor the dad of that guy in my biology class? Will he peek and tell him what I wrote on the card when he gets home?

    The results provide nothing but a minimum number which we know will be far smaller than whatever the real numbers would be in a world where all orientations are treated as equals.

    I think every gay person understands that. But I’ve had a hard time getting some straight people to understand why numbers on such surveys are always wildly inaccurate.

  24. wimsy says

    LOL! Gays in the royal family alone make up more than 1.5% of the UK population. There are so many people in the closet, the Brits have nowhere to hang their clothes.

    In other news, a new survey shows that no one in the U.S. beats his wife….

Leave A Reply