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June 7, 2011 ( – Even though the best data available puts the prevalence of homosexuality at somewhere between 1% and 4% of the U.S. population, on average American adults believe that 25% of the population is homosexual, according to a new Gallup poll.

Over half of Americans estimate that 1 in 5 (20%) are homosexual, and thirty-five percent estimate that 1 in 4 (25%) are homosexual, according to the poll, which involved interviews with 1,018 U.S. adults in all 50 states.

“Americans perceive that there is a large U.S. gay population—one far larger than is likely reality,” concludes the pollster, observing that the tendency to overstate the population is likely due, at least in part, to the level of exposure that Americans have to homosexuality.

Despite their status as a small minority, in the past several decades homosexuals have built a well-funded and politically powerful activist movement that has placed homosexuality at the forefront of political and popular culture. Besides the public gay pride parades that take place in many cities across the country, popular media is increasingly saturated with positive portrayals of homosexuals and homosexuality. 

“Americans’ current collective estimate … is likely driven more by perceptions and exposure than by scientific measurement or reality,” said the pollster.

The pollster also said that, in conjunction with recent poll numbers showing an increased support for gay “marriage,” “it is clear that America’s gay population—no matter the size—is becoming a larger part of America’s mainstream consciousness.”

Interestingly, the poll found significant differences between the estimates given by those of different levels of education, sex, and gender.

“Americans with lower incomes and less education give the highest estimates, on average, of the U.S. gay and lesbian population, and far higher estimates than those with higher incomes and more education,” Gallup found. “Americans aged 18 to 29 give a higher average estimate than older Americans, and women give a far higher average estimate than men.”

The most recent study to look at the question of how much of the population is homosexual was released earlier this year by The Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law. It found that approximately 3.5% of the population is gay.

The main researcher behind that study was recently asked by The New Civil Rights Movement how his figures jibe with the oft-cited statistic that 10% of the population is gay. Gary Gates observed that the 10% figure was pulled from a non-scientific work by sexologist Alfred Kinsey, and that it was latched on to by gay activists as a useful “political strategy.”

“It was a brilliant political strategy as a figure that was large enough to ‘matter’ but hopefully not so large as to threaten the general population,” said Gates.

The University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center has also been conducting research into the prevalence of homosexuality for many years. Their 2008 survey found that only 2% of the population was homosexual, a number that was consistent with previous findings dating back to the 80s.