When Poll Numbers Skew

Who cares? If you’re a guy who is sexually attracted to other guys, that’s how it is and it has nothing to do with me. Live and let live. If the stats of the latest Gallup Poll are accurate, then so be it. And it’s possible that they are, but not very likely. What they appear to be is another reflection of the youthful ideological self-indulgence, a certain cohort of Gen Z putting on a performance for the benefit of rebelling, being hip, proving their wokeness. 

On one level, what difference does it make if Gen Z respondents want to self-identify as being 11.5% bisexual, or that there is a higher percentage identifying as transgender than lesbian? After all, if that’s what they claim, it doesn’t change anything for anyone else, right? And is it not a wonderful thing that young people feel uninhibited from acknowledging their sexual orientation or gender identities? Is it not a sign of progress that the stigma attached to being non-conforming allows people to freely identify as whatever they are?

This should be treated as good news for individual liberty. Resist the urge to see this necessarily as some sort of folly of youth or of the kids trying to be “trendy.” While the percentages look big, it still only amounts to a small increase in the total population self-identifying as LGBT.

Scott Shackford isn’t wrong when he argues that this reflects a freedom that didn’t exist a generation ago. But what is less clear is what aspect of individual liberty is at stake here. Is it the freedom to be gay or trans? The freedom to identify as LGBT? Is it the freedom to have choices and not be “pigeonholed” by societal expectations? Or is it the freedom claim to be something you’re not, whether because it’s trendy or because you believe that by identifying as transgender even if you don’t have gender dysphoria you are supporting the cause?

As there’s no cost to identifying oneself as lesbian or trans in a poll like this, and as the narrative of sexuality has moved beyond “preference” to gender orientation, one would assume a flattening of the statistics. Boomers who might not have been willing to admit, to themselves or others, that they were gay would be willing to say so for the sake of a poll. Millennials, too. But the numbers don’t reflect any consistency, and while some degree of differentiation would be expected, the differences are huge. If people are “born that way,” then how is it possible that only 0.3% of Boomers identify as bisexual when 11.5% of Gen Z does? Can it be that 0.2% of Boomers are trans when 1.8% of Gen Z is?

There is, of course, the possibility that Boomers deny their sexual orientation, or that Gen Z feels far freer to admit it. Maybe even embrace it as a badge of honor or courage.

The alternative is that the identities are performative. One suggestion is that Gen Z women claim to be bisexual, not because they have any sexual interest in other women, but because being sexually “curious” is, as Shackford calls it, “trendy,” or that it costs nothing to claim to be bisexual since you get to enjoy the panache of being non-conforming while still getting to have sex with the gender you prefer.

As for the skyrocketing percentage of transgender identification, there is a schism between people who are transgender in the sense of dysphoria and people who feel that it frees them from being labeled as male or female. They don’t want to conform, so they choose to identify as transgender, even if they’re not. Whether this helps those who are really transgender, by upping the numbers to create the appearance of far larger numbers than reality supports, is a question. After all, it similarly waters down the meaning and significance of being transgender. Will people who use transgender as their identifier to avoid categorization seize the narrative of what it means from people who are really transgender?

The increase in the number of LGBT self-identification is a positive result of allowing people to define themselves and their sexual identities absent government pressures forcing them to conform to majority preferences in order to enjoy the same rights granted to everyone else.

The extent to which “government pressures” impact the enjoyment of “the same rights granted to everyone else” is very much the issue. Putting aside the awkward phrasing of rights being “granted” by the government, polls like this significantly influence our understanding of how government policy should be formulated. Is something a big problem or a little problem? How much of our scarce resources should be dedicated to addressing a problem? If it affects one person, maybe not too much. If it affects 11.5% of the population, maybe a lot. And what do we do when rights and interests conflict and we need to decide whose rights prevail?

And then there’s a less-than-freedom aspect that goes with weaponizing characteristics that might not be as immutable as others, as reflected in Hate Crime laws and the Equality Act, where freedom and fortune are at risk by claims of gender identity. For some, this is about treating non-conforming gender identities with “dignity and respect,” and who can argue against such an obvious good? But when it’s used to enhance punishment or immunize employees from termination or oversight, it becomes a potent weapon ripe for abuse.

If the numbers reflected in the Gallup Poll are legitimate, then that’s what they are. And that’s fine. But if the numbers are performative, woke young people pretending to be something they aren’t whether because it’s the cool thing to do or they believe that it furthers the interests of a marginalized group, then these polls skew our understanding of the nature and magnitude of the issue and what to do about it.

If we’re all in this society together, then it doesn’t serve our mutual interests to formulate policy based on misinformation. And yet, experience suggests that people will seize on numbers like this as gospel and use them to demand change, not thinking far enough ahead of what that change will mean for society as a whole.

30 thoughts on “When Poll Numbers Skew

  1. Pedantic Grammar Police

    The purpose of polls is to tell us what to think. Our rulers want more gay and trans people, so they promote the gay/trans agenda, with “polls,” with “news,” with the “education” system, and with every other propaganda tool at their disposal.

    1. DaveL

      If we were to accept your premise, then a finer parsing of the results would suggest this sinister plan was centered on increasing the number of performatively bisexual young women. Now, I’m sure that sounds like an excellent plan to frat boys and porn producers, but I’m not quite clear on how this is supposed to further the plans of a shadowy ruling elite.

  2. Quinn Martindale

    Freud might have something to say about “attractive to” instead of “attracted to” in the first sentence.

    Bisexual doesn’t mean the same thing across generations. Based on surveys of sexual behavior there are a lot more people over 40 who have had sex with both men and women than identify as bisexual. A younger person is more willing to call that being bisexual even if they exclusively have relationships with the opposite sex. In addition to being more acceptable in society at large, bi people currently in opposite sex relationships are also much more accepted as a part of the LGBT community than they were 10 or 20 years ago.

    1. SHG Post author

      It could be Freudian or you’re just being an asshole about a typo. That things don’t mean the same thing across generations is certainly true. Older gens use words with definitions. Millennials and Gen Z don’t seem to grasp or care what things mean, as long as they can pretend words support their feelings.

      As for people over 40 having sex with both men and women, I’m unaware of any credible evidence that supports such a claim. But then, my standards are likely a bit higher than yours.

      1. Quinn Martindale

        “As for people over 40 having sex with both men and women, I’m unaware of any credible evidence that supports such a claim.”

        This is a pretty amusing sentence when taken literally. Have you looked at all? I’m not talking about Kinsey. It’s a well established finding in multiple studies over decades that more people report both same sex and opposite sex sexual encounters than identify as bisexual. Look at basically any study that examines both sexual behavior and sexual identity, and you’ll see that there are people who have had sex with both men and women but don’t identify as bisexual. This is true both in large scale surveys like the General Social Survey or the National Survey on Family Growth, as well as smaller scale more intensive based studies.

        1. SHG Post author

          A grown up lawyer would point to an actual study that supports his claim. A child would say something insipid like “This is a pretty amusing sentence when taken literally.”

          I have looked. I don’t see it. If you have something that supports what you claim, you would provide it. Instead, you reply like a child.

    2. Miles

      You piqued my interest, as your claim made no sense to me as I was unaware that people have sex with men and women absent some recognition of bisexual attraction. Straight guys just don’t have sex with other guys, not because they have anything against the concept, but that it’s just not something they want to do. So if they do have sex with other guys, how is it possible they lack the self-awareness to not realize, at minimum, that they’re bisexual?

      I found absolutely nothing that supports your claim. Why am I not surprised?

      1. Quinn Martindale

        Where did you look? Search something like “same sex encounters by straight people” or “sexual behavior versus sexual identity” on google or the academic search engine of your choice.

        1. SHG Post author

          That doesn’t provide any support for your “over 40” claim, Quinn. Now you’ve wasted enough bandwidth here with your nonsense. Yet again.

          1. Quinn Martindale

            It did take me about half an hour to find a study that specifically addressed age cohorts. Based on the General Social Study, from 2010-2014, about 7% of people born between 1946 and 1964 reported having both male and female sexual partners on the General Social Survey. See Table 3 of Twenge, J.M., Sherman, R.A. & Wells, B.E. Changes in American Adults’ Reported Same-Sex Sexual Experiences and Attitudes, 1973–2014. Arch Sex Behav 45, 1713–1730 (2016).

            1. Sgt. Schultz

              Since nobody else will do this, I guess it’s left to me to point out the obvious, that this orthogonal yet irrelevant tangent has consumed the comments up to now, boring the crap out of the rest of us and leading us only down Quinn’s rabbit hole.

              You could have prevented this, SHG. Is Quinn even old enough to drink at the bar?

            2. SHG Post author

              To the extent Quinn had a point, it was that some part of the differential could be attributed to older people not identifying as bi even though they engaged in bi sex. If so, there was some degree of relevance, as Quinn noted that it could be ascribed to a generational difference in definitions. Whether the point is backed up by the stats is another matter, and yes, the stats hijacked the comments, and yes, the stats might be relevant, but don’t prove anything.

              But if I can let some of the insanely stupid stuff post that I do, how could I deny Quinn? Oh crap, did I just say that out loud?

      2. David Meyer-Lindenberg

        Stop hating on Quinn, she’s right. Here’s a good study with a large sample size (~4200). This is why the preferred locution in, for example, surveys or studies about HIV is “men who have sex with men” – it’s better than “gay”/”bisexual” at capturing men who have gay sex but don’t see themselves as gay (and also better at excluding gay men who aren’t homosexually active).

        NB that I’ve never read any evidence about the part of her claim relating to over-40s. Which isn’t to say it’s wrong, either.

          1. David Meyer-Lindenberg

            The “over 40” was the point in contention.

            But not in Miles’ comment, which is the one I responded to 😀

  3. William Henson

    I don’t know about anyone else but I usually put down “other” these days in the hope it gets me better street cleaning

    1. SHG Post author

      Frankly, I can’t imagine why anyone would put down anything other than “trans” these days, so that no matter what happened, you would always be able to claim you were the victim of discrimination. It’s not as if anyone could challenge it since you are whatever you identify to be.

      1. rjh

        Getting meaningful answers to questions like this is a nightmare, for reasons like yours. Since the article doesn’t provide core information like the actual questions, context, prep, or analysis, I can’t assign any meaning to the results. (And yes, I’ve been part of questionaire design for reproductive health data gathering. Step one to getting good answers are privacy and context guarantees. Something like Gallup will be made public eventually and will have huge levels of deceptive answers.)

        My personal favorite deceptive answer is “gender queer”. There isn’t any actual sexual/relationship combination that can’t arguably fit into the very broad definitions of gender queer or non-binary. One alternative thought is enough justification if you want to use that answer.

        1. SHG Post author

          This is such a huge problem in trying to make sense of surveys or studies. Dig a bit and they are almost invariably flawed, and yet what do we do with them and what do we do without them? Trying to explain the flaws is a magnitude harder than just regurgitating the numbers.

  4. KeyserSoze

    If the study had a pie chart, it must be true!

    You are of course correct in the tendency of people to believe the person waiving around a bunch of statistics without understanding the meaning behind the statistics or their implication. The audience then acts. Usually badly. [Ed. Note: Deleted. Again, a step too far. Control your crazy impulse.]

  5. Sandia

    I see a generational communications gap. Language has obviously evolved very quickly and an entire new set of language standards around sexuality have been adopted by the youngest cohort that the rest of us just completely missed. Like massively. Scary to be honest, for language to have the ability to morph this quickly.

  6. Jkd

    >If the numbers reflected in the Gallup Poll are legitimate, then that’s what they are. And that’s fine. But if the numbers are performative, woke young people pretending to be something they aren’t

    The gallop number includes both segments, of course. It’s likely that the ratio of heterosexuals to homosexuals remains relatively stable throughout history and across cultures. Transgender is different, because “gender” is inherently tired to society (i.e. on a dessert island, the style occupant couldn’t be a ‘manly’ man, because the traits of manly men are defined by a society and not biology, but the islander would still have male genitals and would accordingly have a male sex); gallop does a miservice by surveying “lgbtqia++” instead of “straight/gay” (bisexual is not included by me because it’s a special case of both gay and straight which overwhelmingly skews towards straight–1% of bisexuals in same sex relationships from these data, smh).

  7. KP

    Why wouldn’t it just be true? The fluoride consumed each generation, the non-foods youngsters eat, the falling sperm counts, the mobile phone radiation, the dearth of having children, the falling IQ of each generation..

    Humans are hardly “normal” any more, never mind their sex lives!

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