Fascinating to discover that American people have imagined this whole “gay problem” to be much bigger than it really is. I wonder if this would be reflected in New Zealand as well?
Americans surveyed in 2011 substantially overestimated the proportion of Americans identifying as homosexual. Where most estimates reckon about 3.5% of the population are homosexual, Americans surveyed thought that somewhere between 20-25% of the population are gay or lesbian.
Some candidate hypotheses for the overestimation:
- Availability bias where observations of people you know carry less weight than observations from TV shows or movies: if people take pop culture as more representative of average reality than their own personal circumstances, and if homosexual characters are over-represented on TV, then this could do it.
- In that case, we would expect overestimation particularly among lower-IQ cohorts.
- This alone shouldn’t account for it: how many popular TV series other than Modern Family have at least 20% gay characters?
- Availability estimation of proportions where individuals of different characteristics are more or less likely to have friends or acquaintances who are gay. This would predict dispersion of estimates but shouldn’t affect estimates of the population mean unless it’s combined with downward bias in the number of people you know. If you’re asked “What proportion of the population is gay or lesbian”, and you think about how many homosexuals you know, and you then underestimate the number of heterosexuals you know, you’d bias upwards your estimate. I still can’t see how that gets you to a 6-times overestimate. Read more »