New Gallup Poll Answers the Question “How Gay Is Your State?”

In June 2012, Gallup, one of the world’s largest and most reputable polling companies, added the question “Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender?” to their Gallup Daily tracking poll. When they released the first batch of data in October 2012, it was already noteworthy for being the largest to date. Now, four months later, it’s nearly twice as big, having garnered over 200,000 responses from all across the country. The estimated proportion of LGBT citizens nationwide has stayed about the same — it’s now at 3.5%, up from 3.4% — but there is now enough data to come up with state-by-state percentages, too, as there were over 1,000 respondents in all but eight states. This is very exciting for everyone who likes numbers and trends, as well as those of us who like to stand in our local coffee shops and try to figure out the exact Queer Quotient.

You can go here to find a state-by-state table and a fun mouseover map, but here are some vitals:

  • Washington, D.C. has the highest reported proportion of LGBT people, a cool 10%.  This is nearly twice as high as the runner-up, Hawaii, which reports 5.1%.
  • The following eight: Vermont, Oregon, Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, South Dakota, Nevada, and California.
  • North Dakota is at the bottom of the chart, clocking in with 1.7%.
  • If you take out D.C., the spread of percentages, from Hawaii at #2 to North Dakota at #50, is a mere 3.4%. As the analysis points out, this very small variation “may run counter to some stereotypes that portray the LGBT community as heavily grouped in certain states of the union,” such as urban areas.
  • The highest red state on the list is South Dakota, at #8 (4.4%).  The lowest blue state is Pennsylvania, at #43 (2.7%).
"I WAS TALKING ABOUT D.C. THE WHOLE TIME, GUYS" - KINSEY

“I WAS TALKING ABOUT D.C. THE WHOLE TIME, GUYS” – KINSEY

Gallup has begun to crunch its new numbers with older ones, beginning by comparing LGBT presence to political ideology. Results are unsurprising: their 10 Most LGBT States list and their 10 Most Liberal States list have seven members in common; 10 Least LGBT States and Top 10 Conservative States have six. South Dakota is the only state that houses over 4% LGBT people and lacks anti-discrimination and partnership laws. They’re also trying to figure out why there’s any variation at all — do LGBT people move to more supportive areas, or are LGBT people in less supportive areas less likely to tell the truth to a telephone pollster? David Mariner, who runs the Center for the LGBT Community in D.C., thinks it’s the former, calling the study “a good indicator of where people feel comfortable living and where people want to live.” Dave Lanpher of Fargo, North Dakota’s Human Relations Commission, thinks it’s the latter, and suspects an undercount. The study’s founders, who are probably less biased, also lean towards the second explanation, as their report has also found that most LGBT people are also young, nonwhite, and female, three “groups with economic disadvantages that could limit their abilities to move.”

As we’ve discussed before, counting gays is problematic sociologically and philosophically. And even if, as study author Gary J. Gates argues, it’s still worth it, it’s pretty difficult logistically, too. We are a community that, generally speaking, does not enjoy neat little boxes of the confining or pencil-checking variety (of course, some of us do enjoy them, which makes us even more unboxable overall). Asking people whether they consider themselves L, G, B or T might leave out those who identify better with other letters. It also leaves out everyone who is uncomfortable sharing information about their sexuality. So a study like this is less a rack of hard data and more a representation of people who, in Gallup’s words, “publicly identify themselves as part of the LGBT community when asked in a survey context.”

"I AM NOT GOING TO TELL YOU ABOUT THAT"

“I’M SORRY BUT THAT’S BETWEEN ME AND MY SUPER-HOT GIRLFRIEND . . . WAIT, OOPS”

Still, it’s better than nothing. Immediate effects will include new potential pickup lines (“hey California girl, are you in the 4.0%? ‘Cause you’re lookin’ 100% good”), some nifty infographics, more fuel for the coast-vs-coast rivalry, and a zillion think pieces about why D.C. is so disproportionately gay (I blame the Washington Monument). Long-term, hopefully studies like this will lead to increased knowledge, more visibility, and challenges to old associations between “gay” and “urban” and “Northeast” and “West Coast.” Maybe they’ll finally even ask about us on the U.S. Census! Then we could REALLY start crunching some numbers and taking some names.

Avatar of Cara

Cara is a writing reading bicycling fiend and a lab mouse to the world. Sometimes she's also Hat Benatar. She lives in Jamaica Plain with five cool roommates and an ice cream machine, and is generally thinking about gender, words, sustainable biodiversity, and/or electric guitars. You can follow her on twitter @cjgiaimo if you want.

Cara has written 111 articles for us.

33 Comments

  1. Thumb up 8

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    Isn’t the idea that gays are heavily concentrated in urban areas and liberal college towns? If so, that would explain why there’s so little variation from state to state but D.C. is an outlier, because D.C. is just a city.

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      I think a county by county breakdown would be more informative. I can’t speak for other states, but in New York the majority of LGBT identifying people are concentrated in NYC. Upstate, you’re hard pressed to find anyone from the LGBT community.

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        Don’t you go saying that about upstate. :( Syracuse has a lgbtq youth center, gaybourhood, etc etc. Yes it’s tiny and not New York CIty, but we’re all over the place if you know where to look.

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          When I say upstate I’m referring to the rural areas. Sorry if I wasn’t clear. There are certainly LGBT people in Syracuse/Rochester etc. but in my experience, there are very few LGBT identified people outside of those urban areas and the majority of upstate is rural and non-LGBT identified to a greater extent than in NYC.

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          This, and I agree that some kind of regional breakdown would be way more informative. I’m from New York as well, and the fact that over 9,000 people were surveyed with only 4% identifying as LGBTQ feels so…inaccurate, I guess? I’d be interested in how many of those people lived outside of the metro area. I’d also love to know other areas within the state that are more queer, so more outside of New York (or the metro area in general) can understand that if you want to find your people, you don’t only have Park Slope or Chelsea as an option in New York.

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        A county by county breakdown would be more informative. Here in Tompkins county (in Upstate NY) we have a very large LBGT community.
        “Why doesn’t Ithaca flood? There’s a dyke on every corner.” :-)

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        I’m in a small Upstate college town (pretty much smack in the middle) and there are more queers than you’d think. We don’t have large visible gathering spots, partly because this is not just a rural but a poor region. But ee do have many networks of friends. Last summer my wife and I were at a Finger Lakes winery that was not only owned by gay men, but they had monthly dinners of 35 gay guys or more. All the little college towns up here, and there are many, have communities.

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      I think a county by county breakdown would be more informative. I can’t speak for other states, but in New York the majority of LGBT identifying people are concentrated in NYC. Upstate, you’re hard pressed to find anyone from the LGBT community.

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      Yes, of course the reason D.C.’s percentage of gheys is so high is because it is not a state made up of both liberal and conservative, and rural and urban, areas, but instead is a confined, densely populated liberal city. As such, it’s also been relatively easy for D.C. to pass binding gay-friendly legislation. Sort of exactly where I’d want to be as a gay person – both for the social aspect of cities (since they 1. serve as a gathering point for liberals/artists/queers/etc. and 2. just have more people accessible to you, so that 3% – or 10%, as the case might be! – goes further) and, of course, the civil rights/legal aspect that this concentrated mass of liberal/young/queer people is able to produce.

      In the end I’m still struggling to see these numbers as useful. They might draw in the eye of a politician who is looking to build coalitions across the state, but they’re not actually accurate to how states are split up, both in terms of “human ecosystems” (i.e. Baltimore City, MD is such an entirely different animal from even Baltimore County, MD, and even cities within the SAME county are often vastly different in their cultural/racial and ethnic/political make up) or “political districts”.

      When I as a gay person (or just PERSON person) am looking to settle or move to a place, I don’t think “let me move to Illinois!” or “let me move to Virginia!” or “Let me move to Maryland!”. You damn well know there’s a difference between central Illinois and Chicago, and between Alexandria, VA and Shenandoah, and between Baltimore City and Ocean City, MD. I think politicians know well these cultural divisions in states, and actually this might give us gays more political power than washing out our numbers by spreading them across an entire state.

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    now I’m no expert in statistics, but I find it interesting how many that chose to not answer that question… It’s kinda like if you ask someone “are you gay”, and they go “I’d rather not answer that”, and in your head you just go like “so you’re gay”.

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    That Alaska is 28th isn’t surprising, except maybe that it’s that high. Most of the gay people are in the big cities though and out in the small towns and communities like where I currently live, things are bleak.

    My town has one openly gay couple. They’re both crazy republicans though which makes sense I guess. I don’t know why they’d choose to live here otherwise.

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    WHO TELLS a random anonymous person on the phone that they’re gay? I’m roughly the gayest/most out person alive and I still wouldn’t say yes to that question in that circumstance.

    Plus in most states can’t you still be fired for being gay? I can’t understand why anyone’s pretending that these figures are accurate.

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      I feel I should clarify that I know the article and Gallup acknowledged this. But it’s still very strange to me. And obviously going to lead to underrepresentation of the queer population, which is pretty much the opposite of what we need.

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    I live in South Dakota and im surprized they werent at the bottom. One gay club in Sioux Falls and I know of three openly gay men in two counties…..someone must be here

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