New poll on public perceptions of sexuality

Scientific American MIND Nationwide Poll Reveals Surprising Perceptions of Sexual Orientation Among Americans

50% Believe Choice Plays No Role in Sexual Orientation; 47% Believe “All People Have the Potential to Be Attracted to Members of Both Sexes”

NEW YORK, NY — (MARKET WIRE) — 02/06/2006 — Half of all Americans believe sexual orientation is “innate, genetic or predetermined by other factors such as environment,” a new nationwide Zogby Interactive poll shows. The surprising findings are the topline results of a survey commissioned by Scientific American MIND (, the magazine that probes the workings of the brain and its impact on behavior.

Just 11% agreed with the statement, “sexual orientation is a conscious choice,” while one in three (34%) said they believed that “sexual orientation is determined by both choice and other factors.” Six percent were not sure. The margin of error for the survey, which included 4,236 interviews, is +/-1.5 percentage points.

While expressing a widespread belief that orientation is not an active choice, respondents also appeared to believe that sexual orientation occurred along something of a spectrum — with both straight and gay people having the potential to be attracted to individuals of either sex.
Some 47% of poll respondents, a slight plurality, agreed with the statement, “I believe that all people have the potential to be sexually attracted to members of both sexes.” But a distinct majority, 53%, said they believed that “a straight person may occasionally experience sexual attraction to individuals of the same sex.” An even higher percentage, 62%, said they believed “a gay person may occasionally experience sexual attraction to individuals of the opposite sex.”

Scientific American MIND commissioned the poll to probe public attitudes on the question of “Do Gays Have A Choice?” — the focus and title of the magazine’s article by Robert Epstein exploring recent research on sexual orientation. The article, which is distinct from this survey, appears in the February/March issue of Scientific American MIND, which hits newsstands this week.

The Scientific American MIND poll also found: — The belief that sexual preference is predetermined is widely held across demographic and political lines. It was particularly prevalent among Americans aged 50-64 (53%); single people (59%); Hispanics (57%); and
Democrats (72%).

— The belief that sexual orientation was either fully or partly a choice
was more widespread among conservative groups. It was especially prevalent
among those who classified themselves as “very conservative” (80%), with
only 15% of that group believing sexual orientation was predetermined.

— Men and women are deeply divided in their perceptions of sexual
orientation: 60% of females believe it is innate, genetic or predetermined
by other factors such as environment; a far higher percentage than men

— The belief that “all people have the potential to be sexually
attracted to members of both sexes” was especially prevalent among adults
under 30 (66%).

Robert Epstein’s article in the new issue of Scientific American MIND, “Do Gays Have A Choice?” explores recent research that suggests that sexual orientation may occur in along a continuum, ranging from exclusive same-sex attraction to exclusive opposite sex attraction. Readers can see where they fall on the spectrum by taking a quiz in the magazine and on its website,

3 thoughts on “New poll on public perceptions of sexuality”

  1. Oh, that reframing (again).

    But… if led to believe that such feelings can be changed if someone chose to work at it — this therefore leads to the conclusion that people chose to remain having those feelings.

    Therefore, they think, choice.

  2. I think there are many factors. One is that they feel choice is important in all areas not just sexuality. Choice is not made clear by these questions. I think if it were clearer that homosexuality meant identity then the numbers would change. Very few people I know in my “circles” believe feelings are a choice. They are reframed as temptations you know 🙂

  3. As you move in these circles, why do 80% of “conservatives” believe (homo)sexuality is a choice?

    This runs contrary to all evidence. Yet they believe it.

    Who is telling them porkies, or are they simply relying on old and incorrect information?

    BTW: we both rate 12-13.

Comments are closed.