Are 1-in-5 young Americans really LGBTQ?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

An online poll released by GLAAD claims one-in-five millennials in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, transition, or queer, etc.).

But do they really?

The Accelerating Acceptance Report surveyed 2,037 adults ages 18 and older using an online survey. The survey claims millennials are more likely to believe gender is a spectrum, not binary, and 20 percent of them were already identifying as LGBTQ.

On top of sharing this new data, the report explains that these millennials are far more likely than the generations before us (20 percent vs. 7 percent of the Boomer generation and 12 percent of Generation X) to shed archaic labels such as “man/woman,” “gay/straight,” to identify as or accept others as LGBTQ.

“[The study] shows a remarkable new era of understanding and acceptance among young people, an inspiring indication of the future,” says Sarah Kate Ellis of GLAAD. “Though laws can be unwritten, hearts and minds in America have been changed for the better—and that is a reality less easily unraveled.”

For all of its feel-good rhetoric about moving forward in all-encompassing acceptance, GLAAD’s Accelerating Acceptance Report may have put too much of a rush on the accelerating acceptance part than they did on actually doing their homework.

The online survey, conducted in part with Harris Polling, lacks a few aspects of a scientific, well-rounded poll. Specifically, the part where it admits the used methodology is lacking and does not provide a margin of error (a key part of any survey if you remember your statistics course).

They admit, “This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.”

A similar study by the Public Religion Research Institute, which also surveyed around two thousand U.S. adults 18 and older in the year 2015, stated that 7 percent of millennials identified as LGBT. A previous study conducted in 2011 had 3.5 percent of adults identifying as gay, straight, or bisexual.

While the number of millennials and adult Americans identifying as labels within the LGBTQ+ range may be rising, is it really at 20 percent right now?

This wouldn’t be the first time a special interest group put out a study with numbers that largely prove the group’s purpose. After all, according to GLAAD.org’s “About” page, their mission is to “rewrite the script for LGBTQ acceptance.”

Whose number is to be believed?

On the topic of sexuality and particularly how many LGBTQ+ people there really are, Americans have overestimated the actual number. An assessment from Gallup suggested that in addition to a general lack of demographics and social statistics, American culture has a tendency — especially in recent history — to over-portray the prevalence of smaller subsets in media such as in television shows and movies. Also adding to the general overestimation is the higher visibility of advocates and spokespeople for causes like LGBT groups.

So is the number of LGBTQ+ millennials in America 20 percent or 3.5 percent? Or, do we overestimate what the number really is based on what pop-culture portrays in TV shows and on social media?  


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