Doesn’t it seem sometimes as if the whole world has been painted with the colors of the rainbow? While things get particularly obnoxious during Pride Month, LGBT people are increasingly represented in movies, TV shows, news articles, and the television media. Their collectives voices make it seem as though gays, lesbians, and transgender Americans make up nearly half the population.
This wild over-representation in the media has indeed confused most adults. According to a new survey from Gallup, Americans think that LGBT people comprise nearly 24% of the U.S. population. But in reality…that’s not even close.
“Just your best guess,” Gallup asked, “what percent of Americans today would you say are gay or lesbian?”
From the answers, the average turned out to be 23.6%, meaning that Americans think LGBT people make up nearly a quarter of the country. And we’re sure if you turned that lens on the media, it would look a lot like that. But the truth is that people who identify as homosexuals only make up 4.5% of the population – a statistic that makes you wonder why we have to hear about them day in and day out.
“Americans’ estimate of the proportion of gay people in the U.S. is more than five times Gallup’s more encompassing 2017 estimate that 4.5% of Americans are LGBT, based on respondents’ self-identification as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” reported Gallup. “All available estimates of the actual gay and lesbian population in the U.S. are far lower than what the public estimates, and no measurement procedure has produced any figures suggesting that more than one out of five Americans are gay or lesbian.”
Later, Gallup correctly identified the reason that Americans have this perception.
“Overestimations of the nation’s gay population may in part be due to the group’s outsized visibility,” said the survey firm. “An annual report by GLAAD, an LGBT advocacy group, found that representation of LGBT people as television series regulars on broadcast primetime scripted programming reached an all-time high of 8.8% in the 2018-2019 television season, which is nearly twice Gallup’s estimate of the actual population.”
What Gallup doesn’t touch on is the fact that the “T” part of LGBT may encompass as few as 700,000 Americans. Compare that figure with the amount of attention transgender issues have gotten in the media over the last four or five years, and the disparity is almost incalculable. It’s worth keeping in mind the next time you read some crazy news story and think, “The world’s going to hell in a handbasket.” You may be right about that, but take comfort in knowing that the media world is not necessarily an accurate reflection of the real one.