SURVEY: Openly LGBT People Tend To Live In Liberal, Inclusive States

Gallup has conducted an expansive survey in an attempt to determine how many people openly identify as a member of the LGBT community across the United States. While the difference between specific states was not particularly significant, research Gary Gates points out that the findings do show that states with more protections for LGBT people tend to have more out LGBT people:

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.

With demographics, it’s always important to keep in mind that the number represents something very specific: the number of people who are willing to disclose their identity to an anonymous pollster. It doesn’t represent the number of people who are actually gay but don’t want to tell a pollster, who don’t yet know that they’re gay, who deny that they’re gay, or who don’t identify as gay but do engage in same-sex behavior.


Still, these numbers are telling. The health benefits of coming out are well documented, so in an indirect way, these results show that having laws that protect LGBT people not only protect them from discrimination, but support their mental health and well-being. Indeed, the value of such positive climates is arguably a more compelling conclusion from this study than the demographics themselves.

Here’s how the states ranked in terms of how many people identified as LGBT: