Gallup’s latest report on the identification of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) individuals in the United States indicates that approximately 5.6% of American adults, amounting to an estimated 18 million individuals, identify as LGBT. This figure marks an increase from the 4.5% reported in 2017.
In 2020, the percentage of U.S. adults identifying as LGBT rose to 5.6%, as compared to 4.5% in 2017 and 4.1% in 2016. Between 2012 and 2015, the range varied from 3.5% to 3.9% of U.S. adults identifying as LGBT.
Currently, 86.7% of Americans identify as heterosexual or straight, while 7.6% choose not to disclose their sexual orientation. In Gallup’s 2012-2017 data, approximately 5% of respondents did not provide an opinion.
These latest findings are derived from over 15,000 interviews conducted throughout 2020 with American adults aged 18 and above. While Gallup did not routinely measure LGBT identification in 2018 or 2019, it had previously reported annual updates based on daily tracking survey data from 2012 to 2017.
The questionnaire used in 2020 offered more detailed options for respondents to describe their sexual orientation, as opposed to a simple “yes” or “no” response regarding their identification as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Different methodologies for measuring LGBT identification can yield varying estimates of its prevalence in the American population. However, the results obtained from Gallup’s new question are comparable to those obtained from their previous question.
The 2020 estimate, utilizing the new question, reflects a 1.1-percentage-point increase from the 2017 estimate derived from the old question, which aligns with the observed trend of an average annual increase of 0.3 points in 2016 and 2017. Assuming this trend persisted over the past three years, the total increase would amount to approximately one percentage point.
Of the LGBT adults surveyed, 54.6% identified as bisexual, 24.5% as gay, 11.7% as lesbian, and 11.3% as transgender. An additional 3.3% volunteered other non-heterosexual preferences or terms to describe their sexual orientation, such as queer or same-gender-loving. Respondents were allowed to provide multiple responses, resulting in a total exceeding 100%.
When reevaluating these percentages to reflect their representation within the U.S. adult population, it was found that 3.1% identify as bisexual, 1.4% as gay, 0.7% as lesbian, and 0.6% as transgender.
The increase in LGBT identification over time can primarily be attributed to younger generations, who are more likely to identify as something other than heterosexual. This includes approximately one in six individuals within Generation Z (ages 18 to 23 in 2020).
For older generations, LGBT identification is lower, with 2% or less of individuals born before 1965 (ages 56 and older in 2020) identifying as LGBT.
Among Generation Z adults who identify as LGBT, the majority (72%) identify as bisexual. Consequently, 11.5% of all Generation Z adults in the United States identify as bisexual, with approximately 2% identifying as gay, lesbian, or transgender.
In comparison, about half of millennials (ages 24 to 39 in 2020) who identify as LGBT report being bisexual. In older age groups, expressed bisexual preference is not significantly more common than expressed gay or lesbian preference.