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Let’s take a survey: Are Americans (a) really bad at estimating, (b) really gullible, (c) both really gullible and really bad at estimating? After seeing the results of this Gallup survey , I think the answer is obvious:

U.S. adults, on average, estimate that 25% of Americans are gay or lesbian. More specifically, over half of Americans (52%) estimate that at least one in five Americans are gay or lesbian, including 35% who estimate that more than one in four are. Thirty percent put the figure at less than 15%.

As the Gallup articles points out, demographer Gary Gates recently released a review of population-based surveys on the topic which found 1.7% of Americans identify as lesbian or gay and another 1.8% (mostly women) identify as bisexual. Yet, as economist Karl Smith notes, “most Americans believe that there are significantly more gays and lesbians than blacks (12.6%) or Hispanics (16.3%) and 35% of Americans believe there are as many or more gays than Catholics (~25%).”

Why do Americans think there are so many gays in the U.S.? Maybe they are basing their estimations on what they see on television.

At the launch of the 2010-2011 television season, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) examined the five broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, and NBC) and found that 41 characters on 84 programs were homosexual . An additional 53 homosexual characters appeared on 30 scripted cable programs. That’s a total of 94 characters on the 114 shows that were counted.

GLAAD’s numbers don’t even include other types of programming on which openly homosexual characters appear, such as daytime dramas ( As the World Turns, One Life to Live, The Young and the Restless, All My Children ), daytime talk shows ( Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, The Talk ), or reality programming ( Dancing With the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Next Top Model, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, Flipping Out, Work of Art, The Rachel Zoe Project, Thintervention with Jackie Warner, Million Dollar Listing, Top Chef, The Real L Word, Project Runway, The Real World, Circus, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, TRANSform Me ).

Of these 138 shows, 86% include at least one gay character. How many do you think include evangelicals or Catholics? Even though 76% of Americans identify as Christians I doubt you could find 90 openly Christian characters on all of television, much less on these 138 shows.

What do you think? Should we give the Hollywood propaganda machine credit for effectiveness or can we pin the blame for this one on America’s math teachers?

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