Study: LGBT Population May Be Underreported in Polls

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com October 12 2013 6:00 AM ET

Public opinion polls may be underreporting the proportion of LGBT people in the population, and they also may be underestimating the prevalence of antigay attitudes, a new study says.

Researchers from Ohio State University and Boston University experimented with a technique that guarantees maximum confidentiality to respondents and compared it to more conventional techniques, the Pew Research Center reports. They found it affected responses on sensitive topics.

Using a method they call “Veiled Report,” which “makes it virtually impossible to connect individual respondents with their answers to sensitive questions,” a Pew blogger noted, the researchers found that 19% of respondents reported an identity other than heterosexual, compared to 11% in a control group polled using conventional survey techniques. The latter, which the researchers called “Direct Report,” still afford a high degree of confidentiality and anonymity, but there is a greater chance or connecting respondents with answers than in “Veiled Report.”

Also, 27% of respondents in the “Veiled Report” group reported they’ve had a same-sex sexual experience, while 17% in the control group did.

In the realm of antigay attitudes, the “Veiled Report” method found larger percentages of respondents opposed to marriage equality, antidiscrimination laws, working for a gay supervisor, and allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children than the “Direct Report” method did. However, fewer people in the “Veiled Report” group said they thought sexual orientation could be changed. Read more here.