Gallup today released the results of a continuing study, which ranks states by the percentage of adults who openly identify as LGBT. Washington, D.C. is at the top of the list, with one in ten adults affirming openly they identify as LGBT.
Hawaii is next on the list, with 5.1 percent of adults saying they are LGBT. At the bottom of the list is North Dakota, with a mere 1.7 percent.
While the study was conducted with the high-resected Gary Gates of UCLA’s Williams Institute, it’s important to remember that an unknown quantity of people may be unwilling or uncomfortable to publicly identify as LGBT, so these number could easily be on the low end.
“As was outlined in the first report of these data in October, measuring sexual orientation and gender identity can be challenging because these concepts involve complex social and cultural patterns,” Gallup reports:
There are a number of ways to measure lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientation, and transgender status. Gallup chose a broad measure of personal identification as LGBT because this grouping of four statuses is commonly used in current American discourse, and as a result has important cultural and political significance. One limitation of this approach is that it is not possible to separately consider differences among lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, or transgender individuals. A second limitation is that this approach measures broad self-identity, and does not measure sexual or other behavior, either past or present.
In general, states where residents express more liberal views are more accepting of LGBT individuals, while socially conservative areas are less accepting. Of the 10 states and D.C. where at least 4% of respondents identified as LGBT, seven are among the most liberal states in the country. Conversely, six of 10 states with the lowest percentage of LGBT-identified adults are among the top 10 conservative states in the country.
The states with proportionally larger LGBT populations generally have supportive LGBT legal climates. With the exception of South Dakota, all of the states that have LGBT populations of at least 4% have laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and allow same-sex couples to marry, enter into a civil union, or register as domestic partners. Of the 10 states with the lowest percentage of LGBT adults, only Iowa has such laws.
Higher proportions of LGBT individuals in a state could also suggest that LGBT individuals move there in higher proportions than the general population does. While highly concentrated (and mostly male) LGBT neighborhoods exist in many cities and are certainly in part a result of this type of migration, little is known about the broader migration patterns of the LGBT community. Given prior Gallup findings showing that the LGBT population is disproportionately young, female, and nonwhite — all of which are groups with economic disadvantages that could limit their abilities to move — it seems unlikely that migration is the primary reason for variation in LGBT identification across states.
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.