Is sexuality a spectrum? Americans aren’t sure.

Jamie BallardData Journalist
June 01, 2020, 2:35 PM UTC

Many Americans believe a person is straight or gay, with no in-between, but others maintain that sexuality is actually a scale.  

In a recent YouGov poll of more than 4,000 US adults, 37 percent say that sexuality is a spectrum while 41 percent disagree.  

Americans who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community are far more likely (69%) to say they believe sexuality is a spectrum. Among this group, 21 percent say the statement “There is no middle ground – you are either heterosexual or you are not,” best represents their views.  

 
Members of Generation Z (47%) and the Millennial generation (46%) are more likely than their elders in Generation X (41%) and the Baby Boomer generation (36%) to say they believe sexuality is a spectrum.  

There may not be consensus on whether sexuality is a spectrum, but when asked about their own sexual attraction, many Americans don’t identify as completely straight or completely gay.  

In a survey conducted on YouGov Direct, Americans were asked to evaluate their sexuality roughly according to the Kinsey scale, which is a common research tool to measure a person's sexual orientation. The scale typically ranges from 0, indicating a person is completely heterosexual, to a 6, indicating that a person is completely homosexual. The original study used several methods to determine where someone would fall on the spectrum, but YouGov simply asked people to place themselves on the scale. 

About two-thirds of US adults (64%) in this poll say that they are completely heterosexual and 6 percent say they’re completely homosexual. One-quarter (25%) placed themselves somewhere between the two.  

Fewer than half (48%) of Gen Z respondents and Millennial respondents (48%) say they are completely heterosexual. About two-thirds (65%) of Gen X respondents and 78 percent of Baby Boomer respondents say they’re completely straight.   

Learn more about YouGov Direct.  

Methodology: 4,771 US adults answered the question “Thinking about sexuality, which of the following comes closest to your view?” including 520 who self-identified as LGBTQ+. In a survey on YouGov Direct, 3,782 US adults answered the question “Please try to place your sexuality on a scale of 0 to 6, where 0 is completely heterosexual and 6 is completely homosexual.” For complete crosstabs, please email uspress@yougov.com.  

Image: The Gender Spectrum Collection