Bi/Gay Divide

New research from USA campaign group GLAAD highlights an age gap in how many people know a bisexual person – and it stands in stark contrast to a remarkable degree of consistency in how many people say they know a gay or lesbian person across the generations.

The survey conducted by pollsters Harris on November 2-4, 2016 asked 2,037 adults ages 18 and older, including 1,708 adults who self-identified as cis and heterosexual, about their own sexuality and gender and those of their peer group.  These figures are then broken down by age.

There is a sharp drop-off in identifying as strictly heterosexual as you look to the younger groupings: in the oldest group 98% describe themselves that way, dropping to just over 90% in the next two brackets and just 84% of “millennials” under 35.

The survey found that similar proportions of people across the four age bands 18-34, 35-50, 51-71 and 72 up said they knew someone who was gay or lesbian – around 70% in all cases. But when it comes to knowing a bi person there’s not just a halving of overall awareness or visibility, but a big age skew. 43% of the under 35s said they knew a bisexual person, with that visibility dropping away by around 10% in each older age band with just 10% of the over-72s knowing a bi person.

That said it’s hard to imagine a 10% score on that question even in the general population a few short years ago.

Interestingly the lowest scoring group for the question about knowing someone lesbian or gay was the under 35s, which may relate to the higher proportions of the under 35s identifying themselves as bisexual or asexual: 6% bi and 4% asexual, both figures tail off among the older age groups.

Recent surveys and research has repeatedly suggested that more young people are identifying as bisexual, or with other “bi+” labels like pansexual and omnisexual. This latest set of data reinforces the idea of that shift, as well perhaps as an assumption on the part of older people who grew up with a more binary set of notions around gender and sexuality that the young bi people they know are gay or straight.