New Study Finds Polls May Underestimate Anti-Gay Attitudes, Size of LGBT Population


A new study by a team of researchers from Ohio State and Boston Universities found that conventional public opinion surveys tend to underestimate the number of individuals who hold anti-gay views while also under-reporting the proportion of LGBT individuals in the general population. Pew Research Center details the report's findings:

LGBT Survey[The researchers] used a novel research method that, in addition to the usual privacy and anonymity afforded by the best practice survey techniques, goes further and makes it virtually impossible to connect individual respondents with their answers to sensitive questions. They call this technique the "Veiled Report" method.

Then they compared their findings with the results obtained as part of the "Veiled Report" experiment with responses from a control group that answered questions posed in a more conventional way. Their goal was to see how social desirability bias- the tendency for people to not reveal behaviors or attitudes that they fear may be viewed as outside the mainstream – may affect reporting on these sensitive topics. 

In the results using the experimental technique, self-reports of non-heterosexual identity amounted to 19% of those surveyed using the Veiled Report methods – 65% higher than the 11% in the control group. The share reporting same-sex experiences also grew from 17% in the control group to 27% in the Veiled Report group, they reported. (Because their experiment did not use a random sample of the adult population, the researchers do not attempt to estimate the actual size of the country's gay and lesbian population.)

The experimental method also increased the rates of anti-gay sentiment. For example, the share who disapproved of having an openly gay manager at work increased from 16% in the control group to 27% in the Veiled Report group. The proportion who thought it should be legal to discriminate when hiring on the basis of sexual orientation also rose form 14% to 25%.

To read the full report, click HERE.


  1. litper says

    Yeah, that’s the problem of these self-report studies. When we get numbers as low as 1,5% whe actual numbers are far higher than 10%. That’s the proof how society is still homophobic.

  2. Joe says

    Nothing to be surprised of here- the same would hold true if a survey would be conducted on race or even ethnic bias. Many people hide or veil their real feelings under certain circumstances (risk of social disapproval, for example).

  3. GB says

    These studies come out. I could have told you this from Day One, but it was never acknowledged. It’s not out of being anti-gay, or homophobic, its’ having an awareness, having lived a gay life, with partner, and not–being older. To many straights, gay is like a cancer, they prefer not to be exposed to, or attempt to understand. In a sense, we were more protected before all these rights were granted. Now that we are out there, we will encounter this extreme prejudice against us. Signs and slogans will not sway this crowd. Liberals and Conservatives are not immune to hating us. And this is not self-loathing. Want to test it sometime?

  4. Francis #1 says

    Nothing surprising as Joe put it. Homophobia (and transphobia) is still very much pervasive. Progress we have made, though, is that it’s much more underground than it once was. People don’t want to be seen as homophobic or are actively seeking to try not to be homophobic. Used to be the other way around–homophobia was almost a badge of honor for heteros.

    Of course, the fact homophobia still is pervasive means people are going to be reluctant to come out. Unfortunate but shows again that coming out still matters and we still have a lot of work ahead of us.

  5. JP says

    The two things I see that are obvious flaws in the “study”, it is not a random, adult survey. Who did they survey? Teens, a select class of college age students at one college? This itself makes the study invalid. The second, and I know that people will call me homophobic (I am gay and am not homophobic) are the percent of people that reported being GLBT. There are no valid studies that have ever put the percentage of LGBT that high. I have taken four master level research classes. This study stinks.

  6. oakpope says

    @JP : the point of the survey is not to give information on the questions’ answers. It is to show that the way of asking the question change the results. In that the survey succeeds, which is not really a surprise.

  7. David From Canada says

    I totally agree with the part about under-reporting the number of LGBT individuals in the general population.
    Really a lot more of society is gay and bisexual than we think – much more than the usual 10% that is often quoted. People won’t come to terms with this for years, but the numbers are definitely there.

  8. dave02657 says

    “There are no valid studies that have ever put the percentage of LGBT that high. I have taken four master level research classes. This study stinks.” Posted by: JP | Oct 11, 2013 8:25:29 PM

    …well, if I were you JP, I would either retake those “master(!) level reserach classes,” or ask for my money back to dedicate to a quality elementary school level reading comprehension class.

    You did not have to even take the time to read the links provided to the original source material, you just had to read the post here itself. To wit: “(Because their experiment did not use a random sample of the adult population, the researchers do not attempt to estimate the actual size of the country’s gay and lesbian population.)”

    See how easy that was? The study had nothing to do with any statement about the proportion of gays in population. It was simply measuring bias. How’s that olfactory radar working for ya’ now?

  9. Reading Comprehension says

    JP, the purpose of the study was not to estimate the LGBT population. They were testing this ‘Veiled Report’ method against conventional survey methods.

    It cuts both ways; gays may be less willing to out themselves in surveys using direct response methods, and it appears closet homophobes face similar struggles with their true selves. That is all.

  10. Endora says

    Most of my male friends from high school had sex with another male at one time or another and still identify as straight. It must be some kind of hard wire thing because it’s not likt they would have to be in the closet, even if it isn’t common knowledge that they have fooled around.

  11. Sam says

    Kinsey was still the closest to analysis with 2.5% exclusively hetero/homosexual each and 1% “X” or asexual. That leaves 94% of the population to be some fluid portion of “bisexuality”. Mind you, this is not an equal distribution but there is a good chunk on “mostly homosexual” and the mode on “mostly heterosexual”.

  12. jjose712 says

    GB: So we were better with no rights because the homophobes won’t feel so tempted to show their homophobia?
    Sorry but that’s ridiculous.

    There will always be homophobes, the same way there will always be racist. It’s an easier way to life to have someone to blame for your own problems. But the fact that they don’t want to show their true colors is a good sign. They know it’s not cool anymore. Some people will never change, but others could find a way to understand why their attitudes are not tolerated anymore.

    It’s like when an athlete make an homophobic comment. Some make the non apology if someone was offended, and that’s all (probably in a near future they will forget the backlash and repeat the same patern), but others go further that, and want to understand what was wrong

  13. Endora says

    There are a couple of inexplicable factors in the “fluid” crowd.

    We have all met or read about some guy who “didn’t know” he was gay until he was forty, until after he had married a female, worked for her father, and fathered her children. Invariably when you ask this person if he had “fooled around” prior to his realization he’ll say that he did. So this is an otherwise intelligent man who was having sex with me, but just never really thought about the fact that he might be gay. Or perhaps this is a narcissist who did everything just the way he wanted to to get the things that he wanted regardless of who he hurt along the way.

  14. Endora says

    Then there are the ones who seem to get off on the sneaky factor. They like the emotional security of a wife and children but get a kick out of putting all that at risk by cheating on her with a man.

    And when they get caught, and thrown out, we welcome them with open arms. So what do they really have to lose in this game?

  15. emjayay says

    I realise that this survey does not establish a real percentage of gay people.

    But I suppose for the reasons others have mentioned here, the percentage is way higher than 2% or 4% or whatever. Humans are social animals with big brains, and so the complexities of the social context they find themselves in and attempt to succeed in are a big part of who they think they are.

    Anecdote, but of the kids I knew of and know of now who grew up in the same small subdivision in a small town, at least a third are gay.

    I now live in a very family oriented working class now half Asian area of Brooklyn, and I see young guys who are obviously gay (I play Gay or Asian on the subway, and it takes something really obvious to qualify as gay) all the time on the subway. These are almost all guys who still live with their families

Leave A Reply