A new study has found that Britain is becoming a “rainbow nation” with growing numbers of young people having some same-sex attraction even if they don’t always identify as LGBTQ+.
The Ipsos survey for the LGBTQ+ group Stonewall interviewed more than 6,000 representative Britons in three polls run from June to August 2022.
The results, published in the Rainbow Britain report this month, show a marked generational difference when it comes to people’s stated identities and sexual attractions.
While the vast majority of the population (84%) said they are straight, when these numbers are broken down according to age groups, striking contrasts emerge.
The study found that while 91% of Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) identified as straight, only 71% of Gen Z (born between 1997 to 2012) identify the same.
Among Gen Z, 14% of the respondents identified as either bi (10%) or pansexual (4%) while just 2% of Baby Boomers identified as bi and none surveyed identified as pan. This suggests that being attracted to people of more than one gender is becoming more and more common compared to older generations.
And when the survey asked people who they find sexually attractive instead of which sexual orientation they identify with, the picture also altered dramatically.
While 84% of the population said they identify as straight, only 66% of the population said they are exclusively attracted to people of the opposite sex.
The authors say this means that “when we talk about LGBTQ+ lives and relationships, we are talking about a wider group than those who explicitly identify themselves as part of the community”.
It “gives us a clearer indication of the true pattern of sexual attraction in the population – a sense of how many people might one day come out in a world where discrimination against LGBTQ+ people didn’t exist, and we were all free to live our lives.”
“Sexual orientation doesn’t appear to be influenced by social class in any way.”
There was also a trend of younger people being more likely to report same-sex attraction. Only just over half of Gen Z (53%) are exclusively attracted to people of the opposite sex, compared to over three-quarters (77%) of the Baby Boomers.
Taking account of the 7% who don’t know, or prefer not to say, two in five (40%) of the youngest people in the survey have attractions that are queer.
In terms of gender identity, 49% identified as women, and 48% as men, with about 3% of the population identifying as transgender, non-binary, genderqueer/fluid or agender.
The study further found that when it comes to ethnicity or measures of class position: social grade, education, and employment, there do not appear to be any statistically significant differences by sexual orientation across any of these groups.
“This is important because stories in the press and commentary in popular culture often suggest that coming out as LGBTQ+ is in some way an affectation of the more privileged in society,” said the authors of the report. “However, in our data, there is no evidence of this – sexual orientation doesn’t appear to be influenced by social class in any way.”