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This Chart Shows America Is Way Less LGBT Than We Think

Americans’ perceptions of the number of LGBT people in the country tend to be way overblown, according to a new poll.


The findings are inconvenient for the social justice crowd.


The YouGov America survey released Tuesday found Americans think lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people make up roughly one-third of the U.S. population.

In reality, the percentage of U.S. residents who identify as LGBT is in the low single digits (though it is rising).

  • The poll showed Americans tend to significantly overestimate the size of minority groups in general, including black Americans (estimate: 41% of the population; true: 12%), Muslim Americans (estimate: 27%, true: 1%) and Native Americans (estimate: 27%, true: 1%).
  • Meanwhile, respondents consistently underestimated the size of majority groups, including Christians (estimate: 58%, true: 70%).


This funhouse-mirror self-impression of America has been documented before, with researchers chalking it up factors like media bias and fear of out-groups.

  • But the YouGov pollsters found Americans are just as likely to overestimate the size of non-“socially charged” minority groups, such as left-handed people (estimate: 31%, true 11%), and of minority groups they are members of themselves.
  • Also, correcting exaggerated perceptions of group size has not been shown to change people’s attitudes about related issues, as in the case of immigration.
  • The pollsters thus endorsed a different, more banal explanation for the confusion: People often revert to the perceived mean (50%) when guessing the size of a group.


If the tendency to exaggerate the size of small groups is universal, there must be different reasons that certain minorities attract outsized controversy in U.S. politics and culture.

  • Maybe, just maybe, the debates over transgender rights or illegal immigration are based on real ideological disagreements, not conservatives’ hate and fear.

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