Guest Blogger

Largest ever survey of gay and lesbian consumers in America

Filed By Guest Blogger | August 14, 2007 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Politics, The Movement
Tags: gay money, Lesbian Consumer Index, Magazine, politics, Tom Roth

[EDITOR'S NOTE:] The following is a guest post by Tom Roth, President and Founder of Community Marketing. Tom and his team have developed a spectrum of products and services to skillfully lead the company’s clients to their goals. Tom is now primarily dedicating his industry-leading expertise to head up Community Marketing’s “Gay Market Research Development Lab®” division, which produces the Gay Consumer Index™ and the Lesbian Consumer Index™. Tom engages in strategic consulting to industry-leading clients and conducts educational seminars for corporations and organizations.

Tom-Roth.jpgExecutives in boardrooms across America are talking about “the gay and lesbian market.” But after decades of social and political progress, who is the typical gay or lesbian consumer in the United States today? What are his/her prime motivators, regular activities or perceptions on any number of issues?

The largest-ever survey of its type released today reveals new information about gay and lesbian consumers that has never been available on this scale until now.

The Gay Consumer Index™ and Lesbian Consumer Index™ surveys, conducted by Community Marketing, Inc. include information based on a national survey of more than 12,000 gay men and more than 10,000 lesbians.

Never before has an LGBT research study been based on a sample size of such proportion, and from such a broad spectrum of consumers. We think these indices will guide LGBT development and effective outreach for years to come.

Another wonderful thing about this breakthrough survey is that the Lesbian Consumer Index™ presents the first statistically significant information on the lesbian market, a market that is truly untapped, largely due to lack of specific segmented information.

Some of the headline findings provide a unique insight into the spending habits, motives, issues and behavior of gay and lesbian households.

  • INCOME: For gay men, the median household income is $83,000 per year, almost 80% above the median U.S. household income of $46,326. For lesbians, the median household income is $80,000 per year.
  • ADVERTISING: 85% of gay men and 85% of lesbians said that advertising in gay media favorably influences their decision to purchase products or do business with a company.
  • GAY FRIENDLY POLICIES: 89% of gay men and 92% of lesbians reported that the way a company treats its gay and lesbian employees impacts their decision to do business with that company.
  • SPONSORSHIP: 88% of gay men and 91% of lesbians report that their purchasing decisions are favorably influenced by corporate sponsorship of LGBT events and charities.
  • PUBLICATIONS: Among gay men the most widely read publications are:
    1. The Advocate
    2. Out
    3. Local LGBT publications
    4. Out Traveler
    5. New York Times
    6. Men’s Health
    Among lesbians the top six are:
    1. The Advocate
    2. Curve
    3. Local LGBT publications
    4. People
    5. AARP The Magazine
    6. O The Oprah Magazine
  • TV NETWORKS: Among both gay men and lesbians the top three most widely watched television networks (in order) were NBC, ABC, and CBS; for gay men the next three were Fox, Bravo and Logo and for lesbians the next three were Showtime, Fox, and Logo.
  • FAMILY: 46% of gay men and 65% of lesbians are partnered or live with a significant other. While 20% of lesbians have children under the age of 18 living at home, the statistic for gay men is much lower at 5%.
  • POLITICS: More than 92% of gay men and 91% of lesbians reported voting in the 2004 presidential election with nearly 84% and 78% respectively reporting that they voted in the mid-term election in 2006. This compares to national estimates of 64% in 2004 and 40% in 2006.

You can subscribe to abstract summaries and updates of the Gay Consumer Index™ and the Lesbian Consumer Index™ by visiting GayConsumerIndex.com and registering for email updates. You can also read a more detailed summary of the findings in the media release out today. Community Marketing Inc. will provide an overview of the full study findings on September 24 as part of the Gay and Lesbian Market Symposium in New York City.


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FYI to everyone reading this, this survey wasn't academic, peer-reviewed, or anything else like that. It was a marketing survey based on, as the press release that was sent to me said:

Survey participants were solicited through over 75 widely distributed internet and print publications. These media partners contributed their survey participants into Community Marketing's own proprietary survey panel developed since 1994, which includes respondents from many other leading event and media companies such as Advocate Magazine, OUT Magazine, Instinct Magazine, Curve Magazine, Gay.com, PlanetOut.com and GayWired.com.

And we all know that the queers who read those magazines aren't just your average run-of-the-mill gay necessarily. (Where's this mill? And where's everyone running?)

Take this as a survey of people who read those magazines who were self-selecting, not a probability based sampling of the diversity of LGBTQueer people. For some actual academic work done on the subject of queer incomes and the results of pernicious employment discrimination, read this study or this one on same-sex households.

Thanks for the important clarification and links, Alex. I like this line from the Task Force:

"While the myth of affluence helps our communities gain the attention of powerful corporations, the real dangers lie in how the myths skew the political priorities of the movement and hurt our ability to advocate on issues of economic justice."

Now why didn’t Tim address that point in his article…? It seems very irresponsible (among other things) not to.

I'm not defending the ommissions in the survey but lets remember this is a *consumer* survey. If you're an advertiser selling high-end booze (as it seems those who commissioned this study are) you don't give two [pl. nouns] about the couples who are raising kids on $39K a year - you want to know about the folks with disposable income, who are probably also those who take the time to fill out a survey they found in the Advocate.

Of course, the rest of us will have to explain that this is not a comprehensive survey of our comunity, and will further have to reject the claims that this is evidence we're looking for "special rights". Ugh.

First, thanks to everyone who has read this post and those who have made comments.

In the last year alone, Community Marketing, Inc. (CMI) has analyzed responses for more than 20 independent surveys, and data collected in this survey - including household income, household makeup, and geographical distribution - is consistent with findings from other CMI research conducted over the last fifteen years. Even the sources contributed by Alex point to higher median HOUSEHOLD incomes among gay men. However, we don’t believe the story is about income levels, it’s about equal rights in the workplace and other social issues, and how these things impact lesbians and gay men in their consumer behaviors.

The methodology employed polls consumers representing the target audience who can be reached using LGBT print and Internet sources. The findings derive from those who identify openly as gay or lesbian and read LGBT publications and/or websites. As we said, these results should not necessarily be extrapolated to the entire gay and lesbian population; however, these findings do provide guidance regarding the perceptions and opinions of "out" gays and lesbians who can be reached through LGBT websites and publications. If companies (or politicians) want to influence “the gay community” through the LGBT media, then they need to understand people who identify as being part of “the gay community,” and who can be reached through gay channels of communication.

CMI elected to migrate its large-base research projects to online surveys in 2000 after a combination written/intercept survey revealed that 90% of gays and lesbians had daily access to the internet, and preferred an online medium to written or telephone polls. CMI further determined that online surveys were preferable to print or telephone because:
* Surveys could be completed by respondents at leisure, and because the survey was taken during free time respondents took more time to read and understand the questions.
* Respondents were more comfortable disclosing personal information such as their sexuality online than over the telephone.
* Online surveys reached broader, more balanced cross-section of respondents, as opposed to the diminishing subset of people willing to take a random phone call to talk to a surveyor.
* Web-based surveys were less intrusive than phone calls, and therefore respondents approached survey questions in a relaxed manner.
* Broader samples could be reached increasing the confidence level of the data.


Because this study encompassed such a wide variety of media, and such a huge number of respondents, covering virtually every geographic area of the USA, the findings contained in this report present a very representative profile of lesbian and gay male consumers. Analysis of the geographical distribution of respondents closely matches the distribution of gays and lesbians in the United States as found in US Census and other CMI research comparisons. The solicitation of regional publications and websites for survey participation may have skewed results somewhat, however we believe this to have had a negligible effect . It's important to realize that no statistically reliable technique exists for polling all gays and lesbians all of the time. We've been doing gay and lesbian consumer research work for fifteen years and believe strongly in both the process and results of our surveys.

Jerry~

Well, actually one of the sources I cited was about individual income and the other was specifically about household income, referring to the UCLA study from a couple of years ago. It said:

Same-sex couples with children have fewer financial resources than heterosexual married parents, with an average household income almost $12,000 less and a home ownership rate 15 percent lower, new research from UCLA shows.

The other study I cited was about individual income, granted, but even if the difference in household income is made up for by queers being more likely to work multiple jobs, that's still unequal pay for equal work.

Also, given that gays are less likely to live in a traditional structure (conjugal couple + kids), more likely to be single, (possibly) more likely to live with their parents, and more likely to live with other adults (I once lived in an apartment with four other gay men), I wonder how a question like "average household income", which is generally asked straight up like that, would be interpreted differently by gays.

You say:

a combination written/intercept survey revealed that 90% of gays and lesbians had daily access to the internet, and preferred an online medium to written or telephone polls

Well, besides then eliminating 10% of queers right off the bat, I also notice that this survey was advertised on specific "gay and lesbian" sites, such as gay.com, the advocate, planetout, etc. I think that a lot of people on this site would be sensitive to the fact that those webpages don't have a target audience based just on sexuality, but also race and class. I even know from the statistics on this site that people of color are underrepresented in our readership, and I think we're doing a lot more to try to be inclusive than some of those other sites. But even so, just because a media outlet says that it's for "the lgbt community", doesn't mean that it's actually working to include everyone that could be included across that phrase.

I suppose it all comes down to this:

As we said, these results should not necessarily be extrapolated to the entire gay and lesbian population; however, these findings do provide guidance regarding the perceptions and opinions of "out" gays and lesbians who can be reached through LGBT websites and publications.

Well, yeah, I agree.