Groundbreaking Study Ranks States by LGBT Population

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 16 2013 3:00 PM

Washington, D.C. Has Highest Percentage of LGBT Population, According to Nationwide Count

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LGBT communities make up a larger percentage of the population in states where social acceptance is greater

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

It isn’t even close. Ten percent of adult residents in Washington, D.C. identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, according to a groundbreaking new Gallup study that for the first time has estimated LGBT population by state. The next state on the list—Hawaii—is almost five percentage points lower with 5.1 percent of the population identifying as LGBT. Illustrating just how much of an outlier the District of Columbia truly is, all states are within two percentage points of the 3.5 percent national average.

The fact that there are lots of self-identified gay people in D.C. is hardly surprising, but the Gallup study is significant because it’s the largest of its kind to analyze the distribution of the LGBT population in the United States and the first time the sample size has been large enough to provide estimates by state. “This is simply new ground—these are not just new statistics, they are the only estimates we have of these people at the state level,” UCLA scholar Gary J. Gates, who carried out the study along with Gallup, told the Los Angeles Times. “There is no other data out there to verify these numbers, which constitute a significant advancement in our understanding of the LGBT population.” (See the full state listing after the jump.)

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Although there are LGBT communities across the country—starting from as low as 1.7 percent of the population in North Dakota—researchers found that generally speaking the percentage of the LGBT population was higher in states where there is a higher level of social acceptance. Except for South Dakota, all the states with an LGBT population of more than 4 percent “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,” according to Gallup.

Gallup had released the first part of its data in October, and had already made it clear there were some obvious potential pitfalls, mainly that people might not be honest or might not see themselves as falling within any of the traditional LGBT labels.

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Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.