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Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals Report Higher Levels of Civic Engagement, Interest in Politics Than Americans Overall

May 1, 2008
N-434, 2007-08

Embargoed For Release: April 30, 2008, 10 a.m. EDT

Lesbians, gays, and bisexuals (LGBs) report higher levels of civic engagement and a greater interest in politics than does the American population overall, according to a new survey by the New York City-based Hunter College Poll.

The poll found that nearly 33 percent of LGBs are “very interested” in politics and public affairs, compared to 22 percent of the general population. In addition, 23 percent of LGBs report contacting a government official in the past year, compared to 15.5 percent of American population overall, and 15 percent of LGBs say they’ve worked with others in their communities to solve a problem, compared to 11.7 percent of Americans overall.

The findings were released at an April 30 event at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in Washington, D.C. The study was supported by a grant from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, a research and educational organization associated with HRC.

The study’s authors are: Patrick Egan, an assistant professor in New York University’s Department of Politics; Murray Edelman, a distinguished scholar in residence at Rutgers University who previously oversaw exit polling for Voter News Service; and Kenneth Sherrill, a professor of political science at the City University of New York’s Hunter College.

Among the survey’s other findings are the following:

  • LGBs are more likely to consider themselves Democrats and liberals than the general population. They also take more liberal positions on a wide range of public policy issues—including those that have nothing to do with gay rights.
  • The coming out period is a time of tremendous transformation along political, religious, and familial lines. LGBs report becoming sharply more interested in politics and adopting significantly more liberal views during this period.
  • Despite their high levels of political interest and engagement, significant numbers of LGBs are unfamiliar with basic facts about their rights. For instance, only six in 10 LGBs know that no national law exists making it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • LGBs rate workplace discrimination protections, laws against bias crimes, and winning federal benefits for same-sex partners as the highest priorities for the LGBT movement.
  • The youngest generation of LGBs cares most about legalizing same-sex marriage and winning parental and adoption rights. The oldest generation considers these goals much lower priorities.

The poll, conducted with 768 respondents by Knowledge Networks, Inc. from Nov. 15 through November 26, has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percent.

“Until now, survey data did not exist that allowed us to answer in-depth questions about LGB civic engagement and political participation,” said Egan. “Very few surveys on politics and public affairs—whether commercial or academic—include questions that permit lesbians, gays, and bisexuals to identify themselves. And the handful of general population surveys that include an LGB identifier rarely include other questionnaire items that allow for the full examination of the questions explored in the Hunter College Poll.”

Complete survey results and methodology may be found at: http://www.nyu.edu/public.affairs/pdf/huntercollegepollreportcomplete.pdf

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
Graduate School of Arts and Science, Research

Type: Press Release

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