The demographics of sexual orientation and gender identity in the United States have been studied in the social sciences in recent decades. A 2017 Gallup poll concluded that 4.5% of adult Americans identified as LGBT with 5.1% of women identifying as LGBT, compared with 3.9% of men. A different survey in 2016, from the Williams Institute, estimated that 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as transgender.
Studies from several nations, including the U.S., conducted at varying time periods, have produced a statistical range of 1.2 to 6.8 percent of the adult population identifying as LGBT. Online surveys tend to yield higher figures than other methods, a likely result of the higher degree of anonymity of Internet surveys, and demographic of those utilizing online platforms which elicit reduced levels of socially desirable responding. The U.S. Census Bureau does not ask about sexual orientation in the United States Census.
|State or Territory||2015-2016 LGBT
|2000 to 2010
|2016 Transgender Adult Percentage Estimate|
|38||1||District of Columbia||8.6%||632,323||63,232||3,678||4,822||31.10%||2.77%|
|—||—||Total||3.8%||Total Population 313,914,039: Adult Population 238,574,670:||9,083,558 ||594,391||646,464||8.76%||0.58%|
The American cities with the highest gay populations are New York City with 272,493, Los Angeles with 154,270, Chicago with 114,449, and San Francisco with 94,234, as estimated by the Williams Institute in 2006. However, one is much more likely to encounter gay residents in San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Boston as a higher percentage of those cities' residents are gay or lesbian.
The U.S. metropolitan areas with the most gay residents are the New York, New York–Northern New Jersey–Long Island, New York metro with 568,903; followed by Los Angeles–Long Beach–Santa Ana, California with 442,211; and the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin metro with 288,748.
The charts below show a list of the top U.S. cities (in alphabetical order), metropolitan areas, and states with the highest population of gay residents and the highest percentage of gay residents (GLB population as a percentage of total residents based on available census data). The numbers given are estimates based on American Community Survey data for the year 2006.
|11||Salt Lake City||7.6%||10,726|
|34||New York City||4.5%||272,493|
% LGBT Est.
LGBT Pop. Est.
|Salt Lake City||3.7%||26,761||4.7%||1.0%|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana (Anaheim)||4.8%||442,211||4.6%||-0.2%|
|Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford||5.6%||49,000||4.6%||-1.0%|
|Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News||3.9%||44,689||4.4%||0.5%|
|Providence-New Bedford-Fall River (Warwick)||3.6%||43,417||4.4%||0.8%|
|Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach (West Palm Beach)||4.5%||183,346||4.2%||-0.3%|
|Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta (Roswell)||5.1%||180,168||4.2%||-0.9%|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City||4.1%||568,903||4.0%||-0.1%|
|San Antonio-(New Braunfels)||3.5%||46,188||4.0%||0.5%|
|San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos||4.9%||102,016||3.9%||-1.0%|
|Houston-(The Woodlands)-Sugar Land-Baytown||4.1%||152,288||3.3%||-0.8%|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara||5.0%||63,941||3.2%||-1.8%|
"Homosexuality/Heterosexuality: Concepts of Sexual Orientation" published findings of 13.95% of males and 4.25% of females having had either "extensive" or "more than incidental" homosexual experience.
An extensive study on sexuality in general was conducted in the United States. A significant portion of the study was geared towards homosexuality. The results found that 8.6% of women and 10.1% of men had at one point in their life experienced some form of homosexuality. Of these, 87% of women and 76% of men reported current same-sex attractions, 41% of women and 52% of men had sex with someone of the same gender, and 16% of women and 27% of men identified as LGBT.
The American National Health Interview Survey conducts household interviews of the civilian non-institutionalized population. The results of three of these surveys, done in 1990–91 and based on over 9,000 responses each time, found between 2–3% of the people responding said yes to a set of statements which included "You are a man who has had sex with another man at some time since 1977, even one time."
The National Health and Social Life Survey asked 3,432 respondents whether they had any homosexual experience. The findings were 1.3% for women within the past year, and 4.1% since 18 years; for men, 2.7% within the past year, and 4.9% since 18 years.
The Alan Guttmacher Institute of sexually active men aged 20–39 found that 2.3% had experienced same-sex sexual activity in the last ten years, and 1.1% reported exclusive homosexual contact during that time.
Researchers Samuel and Cynthia Janus surveyed American adults aged 18 and over by distributing 4,550 questionnaires; 3,260 were returned and 2,765 were usable. The results of the cross-sectional nationwide survey stated men and women who reported frequent or ongoing homosexual experiences were 9% of men and 5% of women.
Laumann et al. analyzed the National Health and Social Life Survey of 1992 which had surveyed 3,432 men and women in the United States between the ages of 18 and 59 and reported that the incidence rate of homosexual desire was 7.7% for men and 7.5% for women.
A random survey of 1672 males (number used for analysis) aged 15 to 19. Subjects were asked a number of questions, including questions relating to same-sex activity. This was done using two methods—a pencil and paper method, and via computer, supplemented by a verbal rendition of the questionnaire heard through headphones—which obtained vastly different results. There was a 400% increase in males reporting homosexual activity when the computer-audio system was used: from a 1.5% to 5.5% positive response rate; the homosexual behavior with the greatest reporting difference (800%, adjusted) was to the question "Ever had receptive anal sex with another male": 0.1% to 0.8%.
During the 2000 US presidential election campaign, market research firm Harris Interactive studied the prevalence of a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender identity employing three distinct methods. In phone interviews, 2% of the population self-identified as LGBT. Using in-person surveys with a blind envelope, that grew to 4%, and using online polls 6%. The group concluded that the difference between methods was due to the greater level of anonymity and privacy to online surveys, which provides more comfort to respondents to share their experiences.
Smith's 2003 analysis of National Opinion Research Center data states that 4.9% of sexually active American males have had a male sexual partner since age 18, but that "since age 18 less than 1% are [exclusively] gay and 4+% bisexual". In the top twelve urban areas however, the rates are double the national average. Smith adds, "It is generally believed that including adolescent behavior would further increase these rates." The NORC data has been criticised because the original design sampling techniques were not followed, and depended upon direct self-report regarding masturbation and same sex behaviors. (For example, the original data in the early 1990s reported that approximately 40% of adult males had never masturbated—a finding inconsistent with some other studies.)
In a telephone survey of 4,193 male residents of New York City, 91.3% of men identified as straight, 3.7% as gay, and 1.2% as bisexual. 1.7% said they were in doubt or were not sure and 2.1% declined to answer. 12.4% of men who responded to the sexual orientation question, reported sex exclusively with men in the 12 months prior to the survey. Most of them (~70%) identified as heterosexual.
The American Community Survey from the U.S. Census estimated 776,943 same-sex couples in the country as a whole, representing about 0.5% of the population.
Fried's 2008 analysis of General Social Survey data shows the percentage of United States males reporting homosexual activity for three time periods: 1988–92, 1993–98, and 2000–06. These results are broken out by political party self-identification, and indicate increasing percentages, particularly among Democrats (perhaps reflecting, in the authors' view, either a shift of political allegiance among gay Americans, or increasing likelihood of acknowledging a homosexual orientation).
Cornell University, carrying out research into sexuality amongst a representative sample of more than 20,000 young Americans, published that 14.4% of young women were not strictly heterosexual in behavior, a group that included lesbian and bisexual women; 5.6% of young men self-identified as being gay or bisexual.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys interviewed a nationally representative sample of 11,744 adults aged 20 to 59 between 2003 and 2010. One hundred and eighty (1.5%) self-reported a homosexual orientation and 273 (2.3%) a bisexual one.
The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior surveyed nearly 6,000 people nationwide between the ages of 14 and 94 through an online methodology and found that 7 percent of women and 8 percent of men identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.
Using a phone methodology, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found, in a sample of about 10,000 women and 8,000 men, that 1.3% of women and 2% of men identify as gay or lesbian, and 1.2% of men and 2.2% of women identify as bisexual.
A Gallup report published in October 2012 by the Williams Institute reported that 3.4% of US adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Minorities were more likely to identify as non-heterosexual; 4.6% of blacks, 4.0% of Hispanics and 3.2% of whites. Younger people, aged 18–29, were three times more likely to identify as LGBT than seniors over the age of 65, the numbers being 6.4% and 1.9%, respectively.
In the first large-scale government survey measuring Americans’ sexual orientation, the NHIS reported in July 2014 that 1.6 percent of Americans identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent identify as bisexual. 1.5 percent of women self-identify as lesbian and 0.9 consider themselves bisexual, while 1.8 percent of men consider themselves gay and 0.4 percent identify as bisexual.
The National Survey of Family Growth is a nationally representative, multi-year survey of teenagers and adults aged 15–44. The sexual orientation items are presented only to interviewees over age 18. Results are presented separately for women and men.
|Gay/lesbian||Bisexual||Something else||Heterosexual||Did not report|
|Gay/lesbian||Bisexual||Something else||Heterosexual||Did not report|
In an experiment, National Bureau of Economic Research concluded that the share of the population that is non-heterosexual has been significantly underestimated in surveys using traditional questioning methods, even if anonymous. In this study, it was found that, in all three facets of sexual orientation (identity, attraction, and behavior), the percentage of individuals who recognized themselves as non-heterosexual was larger when the survey method in use was the item randomized response, known to reduce socially desirable responding, in lieu of questions with direct responses. However, because the study was based on online volunteer samples and was therefore not nationally representative, researchers make no suggestion as to the real size of the LGBT population.
Writing in the opinion section of The New York Times in 2013, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz estimated that roughly 5 percent of American men are "primarily attracted to men". First, using Facebook data and Gallup poll results, he correlated the percentage of men who are openly gay with their state of birth and residence. Second, he measured what percentage of Google pornographic searches were for gay porn. The first method gave between 1 and 3 percent. The second showed that roughly 5 percent of men search for gay porn in every state. The figure was slightly higher in states considered gay-tolerant than in others.
A study has also found that, based on the GSS, the proportion of men and women who self-report ever having had a same-sex sexual partner has steadily increased since the early 1990s. In the 1989-1994 period, 4.53% of men and 3.61% of women self-reported homosexual sex ever, which grew to 8.18% of men and 8.74% of women in the 2010-2014 period. The augmentation is mainly due to those who self-report sex with both genders; among those who have only had sex with the same gender, no clear pattern of increase emerged throughout the periods analyzed.
In a nationally representative telephone survey of 35,071 Americans, Pew Research found that 1,604, or 4.6%, of the sample identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, and 32,439 (or 92.4%) as heterosexual, with the remainder refusing or being unable to provide an answer, or identifying as something else.
In a nationally representative survey of 2,021 Americans carried out by Indiana University, it was found that 89.8% of men and 92.2% of women identify as heterosexual, 1.9% of men and 3.6% of women are bisexual, 5.8% of men and 1.5% of women consider themselves gay or lesbian, 0.5% of men and 1.3% of women identify as asexual, and 0.7% of men and 0.9% of women as other.
The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey of 2,314 Millennials found that 88% identified as heterosexual, 4% as bisexual, 2% as gay, and 1% as lesbian. In a separate question, 1% identified as transgender. In total, 7% of Millennials identified as LGBT. Three percent refused to identify their sexual orientation. The unaffiliated were more likely to identify as LGBT than the religious, as were Democratic-leaning Millennials compared to the Republican-leaning. No differences were found along racial lines.
In a Yougov survey of 1,000 adults, 2% of the sample identified as gay male, 2% as gay female, 4% as bisexual (of either sex), and 89% as heterosexual.
In National Election Pool's exit poll of over 24,500 Election Day voters, 5% identified as LGBT.
Gallup's daily tracking phone survey found that the proportion of Americans who identify as LGBT in 2016 was 4.1% — which represents growth over the 3.6% registered when the question started being asked in 2012. Growth was highest among women, Millennials, the non-religious, Hispanics, and Asians, and happened across income and educational categories. Among the religious, and older generations than Millennials, the share of those self-identifying as LGBT remained stable or varied negatively.
A female-only survey found that 7% of American women identify as gay or bisexual.
According to a national survey organized by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and Harris Poll, 12% of the US adult population is either a sexual minority (i.e., gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual or pansexual) or identifies as something other than cisgender. This proportion was highest among Millennials (20%) and decreased with age, reaching 5% among those who were aged 72 or more.
The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) conducted a survey of over 100,000 U.S. residents from January 2016 to January 2017 asking, among a variety of attitude and demographic questions, whether or not they consider themselves LGBT. 4.4% of respondents answered affirmatively to that question, and 90.4% responded negatively. The remainder 5.3% didn't know or refused to answer.
The Ellison and Gunstone online survey (2009) for the Commission of over 5,000 people indicates that all methods involving interviewing in a person’s home, whether face-to-face or by telephone, may incur misreporting, especially when another person is present. Respondents report that they would be least likely to conceal their sexual orientation (by switching to another sexual orientation category) when self-completion online surveys are used.