In October of last year, we conducted a study to measure the size of Europe’s LGBTQ community. The results showed that 5.9% of Europeans identify as LGBTQ. In our most recent survey, completed in December of 2016, we followed up the initial results with a comparison of those identifying as LGBTQ in Europe and the United States.
We asked respondents, “Do you identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer?”
to which they could select the following: Yes / No / Prefer not to say
Our results show that 5.6% of Europeans identify as LGBTQ, only 0.3 percentage points less than our October study. From a survey standpoint, the result shows consistency. The margin of error for this sample size is +/-1.1 percentage points, so we expected results for this question to be within the range of 4.5% to 6.7%.
Comparison with America
12.1% of Americans identify as LGBTQ, double the percentage of Europeans who say the same. These results are reflected in both genders. 10.1% of American men identify as LGBTQ, almost twice the amount of European men (5.3%) and 14.1% of American women identify as LGBTQ compared to 6.6% of European women.
While these are certainly stark differences, there are several explanations that could account for the size gap between the American and European LGBTQ community.
Age and Population Demographics
One possible explanation is that Americans are younger than Europeans (ex. 33.8% of Americans are under age 24, compared to 26.5% of Europeans). Therefore, because our results show that young people are more likely to identify as LGBT, the younger age makeup of the U.S. could contribute to its higher overall LGBTQ share. However this doesn’t fully capture the significant difference; even when comparing young Americans to young Europeans, Americans are much more likely to identify as LGBT. In America, 15% of those aged 14-29 say they are LGBTQ, while in Europe 8% say they are.
Be it media exposure, support networks, or social campaigns, Americans may simply feel more comfortable labeling themselves as LGBTQ than Europeans do. This doesn’t necessarily mean there are more LGBTQ people in the US, but perhaps the label itself is more commonly accepted and used than in Europe.
Semantics and Wording
In our earlier post about the LGBTQ survey results, we included a question that gave respondents more options to choose from to describe their sexual orientation: “…when we give respondents [Europeans] the opportunity to select a sexual orientation somewhere on the Kinsey scale, we found that the share of people who identify as ‘not only heterosexual’ is nearly twice as high (10%) as the percent who identify as LGBTQ from the yes/no question (5.9%).” Thus, the wording of the question and options provided can have a huge influence on how people respond to a survey question of this nature.
Why are our results so much higher than others?
A recent gallup survey put American LGBTQ identification at 4.1%. Why are our results so much larger? First, our survey is representative for ages 14-65, while Gallup’s is for ages 18 and over; and because young people are more likely to identify as LGBTQ, our overall number is higher. Second, the much larger sample size in Europe (11.283 respondents) means that the margin of error in the EU is smaller than in the US (1.052 respondents) : +/-1.1% in the EU and +/-3.2% in the U.S. Therefore, the amount of Americans who identify as LGBTQ could be anywhere from 8.9% to 15.3%. This could also explain why the US survey results are much larger than our European results. Third, our surveys are conducted privately through mobile phones, which gives respondents more anonymity than face-to-face surveys or telephone interviews (which Gallup used to conduct its survey). Lowering social pressures and increasing privacy in how surveys are conducted might lead respondents to being less guarded and more honest with the answers they provide.
Image : William Murphy, Dublin LGBTQ Pride Festival 2012