Thursday, August 14, 2014

47% of LGBT Americans are nonreligious: a brief reaction

Recently, Gallup released a poll showing that LGBT Americans were significantly less religious than non-LGBT Americans.  Specifically, 47% were non-religious.

Among the blogs I read, Friendly Atheist reacted without surprise, because of course people are going to leave churches that condemn them.  Greta Christina said this means (American) LGBT organizations need to wake up.

My reaction was, "47%?  That's nothing.  The asexual community has 64%!"

The high percentage among asexuals makes me disinclined to accept the standard explanations offered for the number of non-religious LGBT Americans.  If it's all about people leaving their religions, why would asexuals, who are condemned by churches less consistently and less publicly, be leaving in greater numbers?

There are multiple alternate explanations.  Asexuals and atheists have overlapping demographics, both groups tending towards young and educated.  Furthermore, there's speculation that people who are religious are less likely to be aware of asexuality or identify with it.

Regardless of the explanation, if the 47% figure means that American LGBT organizations need to "wake up", what does the 64% figure mean?

Technical note: That poll has some, er, technical problems, because the question is in the form of "check all that apply", when it's clear that many respondents treated it as "pick the one that applies most".  So actually only 36% said they were nonreligious, 23% said they were atheists, and 23% said they were agnostics.  64% is what you get when you combine all three groups.  It's possible this includes some small percentage of atheistic religious people, like Pagans or Buddhists.

Actually, I have the source data for this poll, so I know if you remove all people who indicated specific religions, you're left with 61%.  If you also remove people who say they're "spiritual but not religious" (a group that would have been included in Gallup's 47% figure), you're left with 54%.