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Gay rights groups dispute federal survey's low estimate of population

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By The Washington Post
Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

WASHINGTON — Gay rights activists are distressed over the results of the first large-scale federal survey measuring sexual orientation in the United States, which last month reported that less than 3 percent of the population identifies as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

They contend it is a gross undercount and are particularly upset because they worked for years to get sexual orientation added to the 57-year-old National Health Interview Survey, the government's premiere measure of Americans' health status and behaviors.

“The truth is numbers matter, and political influence matters,” said Scout, director of the nonprofit CenterLink Network of LGBT Equity, who goes by only one name.

Scout and others believe the survey, which is administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is flawed. They point to other surveys, including some scholarly papers and less prominent government studies, that peg the number at closer to 4 percent.

Socially conservative groups seized on the news. The survey “confirms what we already knew, that only 1 to 3 percent of the population identifies as gay, lesbian or bisexual,” Jeff Johnston, issues analyst with Focus on the Family, a Christian nonprofit based in Colorado Springs that opposes gay rights, said in a statement.

“What's interesting is comparing that number with public perception,” he added. “The average person thinks the percentage is much higher, probably because of the high profile that entertainment, news media and other influential sources have given homosexuality in recent years.”

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