Let’s take a survey: Are Americans (a) really bad at estimating, (b) really gullible, (c) both really gullible and really bad at estimating? After seeing the results of this Gallup survey, I think the answer is obvious:
U.S. adults, on average, estimate that 25% of Americans are gay or lesbian. More specifically, over half of Americans (52%) estimate that at least one in five Americans are gay or lesbian, including 35% who estimate that more than one in four are. Thirty percent put the figure at less than 15%.
As the Gallup articles points out, demographer Gary Gates recently released a review of population-based surveys on the topic which found 1.7% of Americans identify as lesbian or gay and another 1.8% (mostly women) identify as bisexual. Yet, as economist Karl Smith notes, “most Americans believe that there are significantly more gays and lesbians than blacks (12.6%) or Hispanics (16.3%) and 35% of Americans believe there are as many or more gays than Catholics (~25%).”
Why do Americans think there are so many gays in the U.S.? Maybe they are basing their estimations on what they see on television.
At the launch of the 2010-2011 television season, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) examined the five broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, and NBC) and found that 41 characters on 84 programs were homosexual. An additional 53 homosexual characters appeared on 30 scripted cable programs. That’s a total of 94 characters on the 114 shows that were counted.
Yipes. The actual number has to be 2-3% or something like that.