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February 16, 2013

Why Do Some States Have More LGBT People Than Others?

Posted in: Uncategorized

Figure by Gallop

Just in from Gallop:

The percentage of U.S. adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) ranges from 1.7% in North Dakota to 5.1% in Hawaii and 10% in the District of Columbia, according to Gallup surveys conducted from June-December 2012. Residents in the District of Columbia were most likely to identify as LGBT (10%). Among states, the highest percentage was in Hawaii (5.1%) and the lowest in North Dakota (1.7%), but all states are within two percentage points of the nationwide average of 3.5%.

Assuming that the percentage of children born LGBT is the same everywhere, what accounts for the differences between the states?

Are the percentages higher in bluer states because more LGBT people have moved there, or because LGBT people living there feel safer answering the pollster’s question, or some combination of both?

The study’s authors, Gary J. Gates and Frank Newport, state that “LGBT people who live in places where they feel accepted may be more likely than those who live in places where they feel stigmatized to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity to a survey interviewer”, and they chalk up the differences among the states to this dynamic.

A reasonable assumption.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that some LGBT people do migrate from repressive to more welcoming states.  (Disclosure: I’m am one of them.)  What we don’t know is whether enough LGBT people do this to make a statistical difference in the poll numbers.  Certainly this is not an option everyone can afford, and many choose to stay in their home states to help bring about change.

What do you think?


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