Reported vs. Actual Numbers in Same-Sex Attraction

Male homosexual attraction (Science Daily)

Male homosexual attraction (Science Daily)

One of my (many disparate) areas of interest is the concept of stated preference vs. revealed preference. It means that while you may say one thing, your actions may show another thing. “Preference falsification” (term coined by Duke University’s Timur Kuran) relates to this as positing that people aren’t always completely truthful about their preferences in public. (That’s one of the things that interests me about sexuality data: it’s so easy to lie! And nobody could conceivably find out!)

The study was published in 2013 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, and was performed by Ohio State University. It dealt with admitting sexual attraction in standard vs. veiled polls (veiled meaning anonymous).

Participants were asked about their attitudes towards LGBT people and same-sex attraction. With the “normal” poll (i.e. people’s identities were conjoined with their answers), 11% of respondents didn’t see themselves as heterosexual, and 17% admitted to having a sexual experience with someone of the same sex.

But shit got real during the veiled poll. Now 19% of respondents didn’t see themselves as straight, and 27% admitted a same-sex sexual experience. You don’t have to be good at math to see that that’s a large jump for both aspects of the study.

According to the study’s abstract:

“The veiled method increased self-reports of non-heterosexual identity by 65% (p<0.05) and same-sex sexual experiences by 59% (p<0.01).”

The study also found how religion, in this case Christianity, influenced some of the participants’ answers. The veiled approach inflated the discrepancy so that self-reports of non-heterosexuality and same-sex sexual experiences skyrocketed by 100%+ from the usual poll. Talk about underreporting!

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