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Where Gallup Falls Short: What Social Media Reveals About Online LGBTQ+ Communities Open Access

In the past decade, there have been large, national, population-based surveys which gathered information about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations, such as the 2014 Gallup Daily Tracking Survey and the 2015 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). These surveys, however, measured only the category of sexual minorities (gay, lesbian, bisexual) and do not include direct measurement of gender identity. Of the 232,324 respondents for the NHIS, 5,640 identified as LGB, and of the 88,687 respondents for Gallup, 2,964 identified as LGBT. The difficulty with national surveys that do not specifically focus on LGBTQ+ populations is that it is impossible to separate the results for the different gender and sexuality minorities and consider differences amongst them. In contrast, there are online ethnographic studies that cover a much broader variety of sexualities, gender, and sex identities. Via the method of convenience samples that were acquired through snowballing sampling techniques, modern surveys are able to utilize the internet to reach normally underrepresented minorities. For example, the 2014 Ace Community Census received a total of 14,210 responses - of which only 886 identified as straight - and the 2017 Queer Experience Survey received a total of 10,000 responses. This greater diversity in identity information can provide valuable insight into the characteristics of online LGBTQ+ communities and will be used to report online population parameter estimates for a variety of demographic and social variables. In this report, we examine the demographic information included --- the current age of the respondents, coming out age, their racial identities, their religions/beliefs, their employment status, their educational status, etc --- in these datasets. The results are presented using these new complex-systems tools of networks, k-means clustering, as well as power-law testing. We expect that the respondents will skew young, have some college education, have sufficient contact with English-speaking internet communities where these surveys were dispersed, more likely to be white, trend towards being politically left, and to not be highly religious. We seek to challenge the preconceptions that non-LGBTQ+ individuals may have concerning the queer community, and, further, to analyze the composition of queer populations in a way that surveys such as the Gallup poll fail to take into consideration by their very design.

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