One in six adults in Generation Z identifies as LGBT, according to survey data released early Wednesday from Gallup, providing some of the most detailed and up-to-date estimates yet on the size and makeup of the nation’s LGBT population.
Gallup’s latest survey data, based on more than 15,000 interviews conducted throughout 2020 with Americans aged 18 and older, found that 5.6% of U.S. adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, up from 4.5% in Gallup’s findings based on 2017 data.
At a time when the majority of Americans support gay rights, more than half a decade after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, it’s clear that a growing percentage of the U.S. population identifies as LGBT, Gallup’s researchers said.
What’s less clear is why. Is it because of a real shift in sexual orientation and gender identity? Or is it because of a greater willingness among young people to identify as LGBT?
If the latter is true, it’s possible the latest findings are undercounting the actual size of the population, Gallup said. Moreover, the 2020 survey data only captures the oldest segment of Generation Z, those ages 18 to 23.
“As we see more Gen Z become adults, we may see that number go up,” said Gallup senior editor Jeff Jones.
Phillip Hammack, a psychology professor and director of the Sexual and Gender Diversity Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said the Gallup findings are “extremely exciting,” and are consistent with his own research about young people identifying as LGBT in California.
A key reason for this growth is the internet, he said. When Hammack was coming out in the 1990s, there was no YouTube, no Instagram, no easy way to research sexuality or gender outside of a library or a Gay-Straight Alliance group. Today’s teenagers have all this information at their fingertips.
“The rigid lines around gender and sexuality are just opening up for everybody,” Hammack said. “Young people are just doing it. … They’re leading this revolution, and they’re forcing scientists to take a closer look.”
More than half of LGBT adults identify as bisexual, the Gallup survey data found, while a quarter say they are gay, 12% identify as lesbian, 11% as transgender and 3% as another term, such as queer. (Respondents could select multiple responses.) That means 3.1% of Americans identify as bisexual.
And in Generation Z, bisexual people make up an even greater share of the LGBT community – 72% said they identify as bisexual. This means that nearly 12% of all Gen Z adults identify as bisexual, and about 2% each identify as gay, lesbian or transgender.
In comparison, about half of millennials who identify as LGBT say they are bisexual, while in older age groups, identifying as bisexual is about as common as identifying as gay or lesbian.