Surveys may be underestimating the size
of the LGBT population and the number of people biased against them,
new research suggests.
According to a study conducted by Ohio
State University and Boston University and published by the National
Bureau of Economic Research, people are often afraid to reveal their
sexuality, even on anonymous surveys.
Additionally, people who are biased
against gays tend to shy away from revealing those attitudes on
“Measuring sexual orientation,
behavior, and related opinions is difficult because responses are
biased toward socially acceptable answers,” the researchers wrote
in their study, titled The
Size of the LGBT Population and the Magnitude of Anti-Gay Sentiment
are Substantially Underestimated.
The researchers suggested that the
findings show that “it is perceived as socially undesirable both to
be open about being gay, and to be unaccepting of gay individuals.”
Researchers used two online surveys to
reach their conclusions. In the first survey, people were asked to
answer yes or no to the question “Do you consider yourself to be
In the second survey, the question was
posed as a statement – “I consider myself to be heterosexual” –
and included in a list of four statements. Respondents could answer
how many of the statements were true for themselves. That is, a
person could answer that two of the statements were true without
actually stating which were true.
Using those results, researchers
estimated that as many as 8 percent of the respondents were not being
truthful about their sexual orientation.
A higher percentage of people were
estimated to be hiding their bias toward gay people. When asked
outright, sixteen percent said that they wouldn't be happy to have an
openly gay or bisexual boss, but the second survey found a much
higher estimate of twenty-seven percent.