The Irish celebrate the success of a popular vote support same-sex marriage.
The Irish celebrate the success of a popular vote support same-sex marriage. INM

Is Australia really getting gayer? How gay can we get?

ROY Morgan Research is trying to work out how many Australians are gay. 

After three surveys -- first in 2006 then again in 2012, the latest this year -- it appears the short answer is yes, Australia does appear to be increasingly gay.

In the first two surveys, Roy Morgan asked 180,000 Australians aged 14 and over if they would agree or disagree with the statement: "I consider myself a homosexual".

In the first survey 2.4% agreed (about 1 in 42).

In the second survey the number had climbed to 3.1% (about 1 in 32).

In 2015, the number is now 3.4% or 1 in 29.

Across all age groups, homosexuality is increasing.

In teenagers between 14 and 19, 4.6% consider themselves homosexual.

Once we hit our 20s, we hit the peak -- 6.5% consider themselves gay.

From there the rates seem to decline somewhat.

But Roy Morgan has had to grapple with some interesting factors with trying to work out how gay we really are.

If everyone is answering the question accurately and openly, then it would lead to further questions including:

  • Does homosexuality go away? With each decade of maturity from 20s to 30s to 40s and onwards, do around a third of gay people de-homosexualise?
  • Has incidence of homosexuality been rising over time? Were more homosexuals actually born in the 1980s than in the 1970s, 1970s than 1960s, and so on?
  • Is homosexuality a recent and niche innovation, like Blu-Ray, and are younger people more likely to be 'early adopters'?
  • Or finally, is it that younger homosexuals are more likely (and/or older homosexuals are less likely) to complete comprehensive market research surveys than heterosexuals the same age, thus skewing the data?

What's more likely of course, is that it's a case of candour. Older responders may be less willing to openly discuss their sexuality.

Roy Morgan boss Michele Levine puts it like this:

"With the issue of same-sex marriage once again in the spotlight, trying to determine the 'real' number of gay people in Australia is pretty irrelevant, except perhaps for politicians wishing to count up potential votes.

"Whether it's 1 in 50 or 1 in 15, there isn't some minimum threshold for what counts as discrimination.

"However the rising rate across all age groups shows that people who consider themselves homosexual are becoming more open about it, which reflects increasing acceptance across society.

"Finding out the 'real' number, therefore, is less about getting a head-count and more a gauge of just how open we are.

"As the Single Source survey continues over the coming decade, perhaps we'll see the figure steady and flatten across age groups, with the question answered as readily, honestly and casually as any about vegetarianism or coupon-clipping."


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