47% of Americans Believe People Are Born Gay

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47% of Americans believe that sexual orientation is determined at birth, while 33% believe homosexuality is due to external factors such as upbringing or environment, according to a May 16, 2013 poll from Gallup. The 14% gap in favor of nature over nurture is the largest Gallup has measured to date.

Gallup asked a random sampling of 1,535 Americans over the age of 18, “In your view, is being gay or lesbian something a person is born with, or due to factors such as upbringing and environment?” 9% said that both conditions apply, 3% said neither explained sexual orientation, and 8% said they do not have an opinion on the subject. Gallup, which began reporting on gays and lesbians in 1977, reported that the first year the question was included in their survey only 13% of Americans said homosexuals are born gay. 56% of those surveyed attributed sexual orientation to a person’s upbringing or environmental factors.

Since 1977, the number of people who believe sexual orientation is determined at birth has increased while the number of people citing external factors has decreased. 
As recently as 2011, 40% of Americans believed homosexuals were born gay while 42% believed homosexuals were products of their environment. Nature exceeded nurture in Gallup public opinion polls in 2002 and 2006-2008.

According to Frederick L. Whitam, Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University, “although all people in all societies with rare exceptions are socialized to be heterosexual, the predictable, universal appearance of homosexual persons, despite socialization into heterosexual patterns of behavior suggest not only that homosexual orientation is biologically based but that sexual orientation itself is also biologically derived.”

However, A. Dean Byrd, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Utah, says: “[T]he scientific attempts to demonstrate that homosexual attraction is biologically determined have failed. The major researchers now prominent in the scientific arena–themselves gay activists–have in fact arrived at such conclusions. There is no support in the scientific research for the conclusion that homosexuality is biologically determined.”

According to Gallup, more American subgroups believe that sexuality is determined at birth instead of through environmental factors, excluding those who self-identify as Republicans, conservatives, or weekly church attenders. Democrats favor nature over nurture by 56% to 23% while Republicans favor nurture over nature by 49% to 35%. People who graduated college favor nature over nurture 55% to 29% while those respondents with only a high school education favor nature over nurture by a 45% to 38% margin. Researchers estimate that approximately 1-10% of the US population is lesbian, gay, or bisexual.


Michael Gold, “Growing Number Believe Sexual Orientation to Be Birth Factor, Poll Finds,” baltimoresun.com, May 16, 2013

Jeffrey M. Jones, “More Americans See Gay, Lesbian Orientation as Birth Factor,” gallup.com, May 16, 2013

Robert Rizzuto, “Americans Increasingly View Sexual Orientation as Characteristic Determined at Birth, New Poll Finds,” masslive.com, May 16, 2013

United Press International, “Poll: 47 Percent of US Now Thinks Homosexuality Is Inherent,” upi.com, May 16, 2013