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Americans Vastly Overstate Gay Population

Americans think 23 percent of their fellow citizens are gay, according to a new poll by Gallup. That’s an exaggeration so strong, it’s close to ten times as high as the actual figure.

The 23 percent estimate is down slightly from a 25 percent estimate in 2011, but still much, much higher than current research indicates the actual rate to be, which, according to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is about 3 percent of Americans. Gallup’s own daily polling finds that 3.8 percent of Americans identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

However, only 9 percent of those polled by Gallup even believed the gay population to be less than five percent. Thirty-three percent of respondents believed the figure to be above 25 percent.

The exaggeration of America’s gay population is apparent across many different demographics. Those with more education were less off with their estimates, but even those with postgraduate degrees placed the gay population at 15 percent, four to five times its actual figure.

Overall, those from groups more sympathetic to gays exaggerated their population to a greater degree. Social liberals thought 24 percent of the population was gay, compared to just 19 percent of social conservatives, and supporters of gay marriage believe that 25 percent of their fellow Americans are gay, compared to a 21 percent estimate from gay marriage opponents.

Wildly off-the-mark beliefs about the makeup of America’s population are nothing new. Earlier polls by Gallup have found that Americans believe the country is one-third black (blacks are about 14 percent of the country) and 30 percent Hispanic (they are a little over half that).

The poll was conducted from May 6-10, used a sample of 1,024 U.S. adults, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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