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How many people experience same-sex attractions?


You may have heard the claim that 10% of the population is homosexual. More conservative estimates place the figure at 1–3%. If you consider everyone who has had homosexual contact since puberty, the numbers are more in the neighborhood of 5–10%.


You may have heard the claim that 10% of the population has a homosexual orientation. More conservative estimates place the figure at 1–3%. However, estimates are problematic not only because it is hard to get accurate information, but also because it is difficult to define what same-sex attraction is. Do you include in the numbers everyone who has had a same-sex thought, or just those who have had a homosexual experience? How many experiences or thoughts qualify? Some people are reluctant to admit homosexual experiences, while others exaggerate the numbers. Further, since it is to the political advantage of those who seek to normalize homosexuality to establish the practice as widespread, you must be cautious about the studies that are reported.

Kinsey research

Alfred C. Kinsey conducted research on human sexuality in the late 1940s and early 1950s and published his findings in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (Kinsey, 1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953). Kinsey ranked his findings on a seven-point scale with exclusive heterosexuality at zero and exclusive homosexuality at six. (Kinsey, 1948, p. 638) Among twenty-five–year-old males in the United States, he claimed that 79% were at zero (exclusively heterosexual) and 2.9% were at six (exclusively homosexual). (Kinsey, 1948, p. 651) He claimed the following about white American males between the ages of sixteen and fifty-five (Kinsey, 1948, p. 651):

  • 10% were "more or less exclusively homosexual (i.e., rate 5 or 6) for at least three years."
  • 8% were "exclusively homosexual (i.e., rate 6) for at least three years."
  • 4% were "exclusively homosexual throughout their lives, after the onset of adolescence."

His findings showed that 10% of the males had seven or more homosexual experiences. Further, he claimed that as many as 37% had some kind of homosexual experience after adolescence.

Kinsey’s research methodologies have been questioned. Although he used a large number of subjects—they took sex histories on more than 18,000 people and used data from 5,000 men and 6,000 women—he did not use methods of random sampling that scientists commonly use today. His subjects came from boarding houses, college fraternities, prisons, mental wards, and wherever else he could get them. As many as 20–25% had prison experience and 5% may have been male prostitutes. Since one would expect that this group would have higher than average homosexual experiences, the findings of Kinsey’s studies may not be representative of the population as a whole. (American Family Association, pp. 9–10)

Current research

There has been significant research since the 1950s to indicate that the occurrence of same-sex attraction in America and in other countries is much lower than the Kinsey statistics would indicate. (Burtoft, p. 23) Milton Diamond of the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii analyzed studies of populations in the United States, Scandinavia, Asia, and Europe, and found that including all individuals who have ever engaged in any kind of same-sex behavior, the numbers would be "5–6 percent for males and 2–3 percent for females." (Diamond, p. 303)

A large study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute reported in 1993 that of sexually-active men aged 20–39, only 2.3% had any same-gender sexual activity and only 1.1% reported exclusive homosexual contact during the last ten years. (Billy, pp. 52–60)

Perhaps the largest and most scientifically-based modern survey was concluded in 1994 by academics at the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. (U.S. News & World Report) They asked 210 pages of questions of 3,432 Americans, ages eighteen to fifty-nine, and published their findings in The Social Organization of Sexuality. (University of Chicago) On the subject of homosexuality, this survey found the following:

Have you had sex with someone of your gender?

  • 2.7% of men (and 1.3% of women) had sex in the past year
  • 7.1% of men (and 3.8% of women) had sex since puberty

Are you sexually attracted to people of the same gender?

  • 6.2% of men said yes
  • 4.4% of women said yes

The survey also showed larger percentages in urban areas. The twelve largest cities in the United States showed more than 9% of men identifying themselves as homosexual, as opposed to only 1% in rural areas. Since people who experience same-sex attraction tend to migrate from the rural areas and suburbs to larger cities, these larger urban groups feed the perception that a larger percentage of the total population experiences same-sex attraction.

Conclusions on existing research

Different studies show different findings. Kinsey claimed that 4–10% of the male population was more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years. Other research since that time shows the figure to be a more conservative 1–3%. However, if you consider everyone who has had homosexual contact since puberty, the numbers are more in the neighborhood of 5–10%. In addition to individuals, same-sex attraction also effects parents, spouses, brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and friends.

For further reading:

  • Setting the Record Straight: What Research Really Says About the Social Consequences of Same-sex attraction, Larry Burtoft, Ph.D., Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1995, pp. 24–26.
  • Same-sex attraction in America: Exposing the Myths, American Family Association, Tupelo, MS, 1994.
  • Kinsey, Sex and Fraud: The Indoctrination of a People by Judith A. Reisman and Edward W. Eichel, Huntington House, LaFayette, LA, 1990.