Washington, D.C. – A national poll funded by the Human Rights Campaign and taken by the City University of New York’s Hunter College indicates that bisexuals make up half of all people who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.
Conducted in November, the poll surveyed 768 people. Of these, the poll found that 15.4 percent identified as bisexual men, 33.5 percent as bisexual women, 33.4 percent as gay men and 17.8 percent as lesbians.
Already, the poll has generated controversy between bisexuals and several gay commentators.
Nicole Kristal, co-author of The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe, told The Washington Blade that the poll revealed a truth that many gays and lesbians “would rather ignore.”
“There are plenty of lesbians in the gay community who occasionally sleep with men and still call themselves lesbians and vice versa,” she said. “People need to start being honest in their daily lives about their actual behaviors rather than hiding behind convenient black-and-white labels that breed acceptance from their gay and lesbian peers who often condemn bisexuality.”
However, critics of the poll including gay author, commentator and blogger Andrew Sullivan have dismissed the poll’s findings.
“[The HRC’s] latest commissioned poll of ‘LGB’s, i.e. lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, has the following demographics: 51 percent gay/lesbian/homosexual and 49 percent bisexual. On what planet is that a representative sample of any actual population?” Sullivan wrote in a Nov. 25 blog post. “Ditto: 51 percent female. I don't know any demographer who thinks that lesbians and gay men have equal numbers in a fictional lesbian-gay community. So the poll is designed to reflect a pre-ordained political ‘community,’ rigged for PC purposes to inflate the numbers of bisexuals and lesbians.”
Several bisexual readers, however, told The Washington Blade that they were encouraged by the poll’s findings and what the poll could mean for bisexual visibility.
“When we don’t identify ourselves, we only lend to the impression that we aren’t even there,” Erynn Rowan Laurie, a 46-year-old bisexual woman from Everett, Wash., told the newspaper. “We create our own invisibility.”
Among its findings, the Hunter poll also found that 58 percent of respondents reported that employment non-discrimination laws and hate crimes legislation were “extremely important” political priorities. Other top priorities included securing benefits for same-sex partners, AIDS funding and legalizing same-sex marriage.
Concerning the 2008 presidential election, 72 percent of respondents consider Sen. Hillary Clinton “a supporter of gay rights,” with Sen. Barack Obama at 52 percent and former Senator and 2004 vice presidential hopeful Sen. John Edwards at 41 percent. Thirty-seven percent considered New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani a gay-rights supporter with Sen. John McCain at 13 percent.
Nearly 62 percent of respondents identified as liberal.
The Hunter poll is not the first survey to identify a large number of bisexuals in the gay, lesbian and bisexual U.S. population. In a 2002 survey, the U.S. government’s National Survey of Family Growth that 56 percent of men and women who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual identified as bisexual.