23 July 2014

Adventures in bad statistics, Big Gay edition

Note: This post was adapted from a Facebook comment I made in a closed group.

In the March 2011 edition of their National Health Statistics Report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published results on sexual identity from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth. More recently (July 2014 edition of the NHSR) they published the results of the 2013 National Health Interview Survey[1]. This got passed around with headlines like "Gay population smaller than previously thought." According to the report,

Proper counter-propaganda tactics would be to pull out other statistical nuggets for comparison. As a particularly evocative example, only 1.7% of the American population self-identifies as Mormon[1], so they're outnumbered 2 to 1 even with this maybe-lowball stat.

Similarly, the Southern Baptist churches claim roughly 16 million members, which is about 5% of the U.S. population[2]... not all that much bigger than the LGBTQ population, and probably within error bars.

If you want to deal in absolute numbers, 3.4% is something like eleven million people. For reference, that's a population bigger than the entire state of Georgia's, or if you like, enough to turn at least the following states into Godless Homosexual Utopias:

- Alaska

- Delaware

- Hawaii

- Maine

- Montana

- New Hampshire

- North Dakota

- Rhode Island

- South Dakota

- Vermont

- Washington, D.C.

- Wyoming

By a straight 1-for-1 swap of hetero people for LGB people.

So the article's remark that gays and lesbians are "a surprisingly small number given the outsized influence they have had on the nation’s cultural and legal landscape" would be almost funny if it weren't just Bad Statistics.

N.B.:

References:

1. Original CDC study (pdf)


2. World - Government Survey: Gay Population Smaller Than Previously Thought


3. The Atlantic - Americans Have No Idea How Few Gay People There Are


4. Wikipedia - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints membership statistics (United States)


5. Wikipedia - Southern Baptist membership