A Gallup survey released Wednesday has found that more adult Americans are identifying as LGBT, a shift that pollsters see as driven, at least in part, by people in younger generations who are more likely to consider themselves to be something other than heterosexual.
The poll found that 5.6% of adults identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, rising from 4.5% in 2017, the last time Gallup reported an annual update. The poll also found that more than half of LGBT adults identified as bisexual.
One in six adults in Generation Z, people born between 1997 and 2002, identify as LGBT, the poll found. The growth in Americans who identify as LGBTQ is likely to increase, Gallup’s senior editor, Jeffrey Jones, wrote in announcing the results. That is because those in younger generations are more likely than those in older generations to consider themselves LGBT, he said.
Americans have been more supportive of equal rights for LGBTQ people, Jones said, prompting an increase in people who identify themselves as LGBT.
“I think the findings prove that visibility and acceptance, when combined, will bust out closet doors,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and chief executive of GLAAD, an LGBTQ media organization and advocacy group.
The survey was based on more than 15,000 interviews conducted throughout 2020 with Americans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia who were 18 or older. Those surveyed were interviewed by both cellphone and landline. They were asked: “Which of the following do you consider yourself to be? You can select as many as apply: straight or heterosexual; lesbian; gay; bisexual; transgender.”
Gallup said the poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 1 percentage point for all adults, and plus or minus 5 percentage points for LGBT adults.
The identity question in the most recent poll was more detailed than in previous years, Jones said. Respondents answered their precise sexual orientation instead of answering “yes” or “no” to whether they identified as LGBT.
The Supreme Court has made several landmark rulings in the past decade, adding to a more supportive climate for LGBTQ people. In 2013, the court ruled that married same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits. In 2015, the court ruled that same-sex marriage was a nationwide right. Most recently, it ruled in June that civil rights law protected gay and transgender workers.
But challenges continue for LGBTQ Americans. Although hundreds of religious leaders around the world signed a declaration demanding a global ban on conversion therapy, which seeks to change the sexual orientations of LGBTQ people, only about 20 states have some form of a ban on the disputed approach. During President Donald Trump’s administration, the rollback of rights for transgender people extended through the entire federal government.
An annual report by GLAAD also found this year that LGBTQ representation on television had fallen for the first time in five years.
The U.S. House of Representatives is likely to vote this week on the Equality Act, a bill that would expand protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, NPR reported.
While leading LGBTQ advocacy groups were encouraged that the Gallup results matched their independent polls, leaders said there was more to be done to make the estimates more inclusive for people who identify in other ways or are gender nonconforming.
“You’re not just erasing their identity, but you’re missing an opportunity to understand the complexity of lived experiences,” said Amit Paley, the chief executive and executive director of the Trevor Project, an organization that aims to prevent suicides in young LGBTQ people.
For leaders, the poll also highlights a perpetual issue in gathering data on LGBTQ people that could influence new policies.
“We don’t actually know how many LGBTQ people in this country die by suicide because death records don’t include data on gender identity or sexual orientation, which is erasing LGBTQ people in important ways,” Paley said.