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Lay Conceptions of Sexual Orientation Groups: United States Convenience Samples, 2012 (ICPSR 38131)

Version Date: Jan 30, 2023 View help for published

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Sara Emily Burke, Syracuse University; Marianne LaFrance, Yale University

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Researchers aimed to characterize certain features of lay beliefs and attitudes surrounding sexual orientation groups, with a particular focus on conceptions of bisexual people. In brief, participants were recruited without explicitly calling attention to their own sexual orientation, but with a number of intentional steps to make the study visible to sexual minorities. The study asked participants a series of questions about issues related to sexuality, gender, and sexual orientation. Most notably, in the middle section of the study, participants were randomly assigned to consider one group in-depth: heterosexual women, heterosexual men, bisexual women, bisexual men, homosexual women, and homosexual men. (The adjective structure was kept consistent for all 6 groups.) Participants responded to a number of attitude and belief items about their assigned target group, including beliefs about the controllability and stability of the group's sexual orientation and guesses about the personality characteristics of group members.

Burke, Sara Emily, and LaFrance, Marianne. Lay Conceptions of Sexual Orientation Groups: United States Convenience Samples, 2012. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2023-01-30.

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Fund for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale University (FLAGS)


This data collection may not be used for any purpose other than statistical reporting and analysis. Use of these data to learn the identity of any person or establishment is prohibited. To protect respondent privacy, this data collection is restricted from general dissemination. To obtain this file, researchers must agree to the terms and conditions of a Restricted Data Use Agreement in accordance with existing ICPSR servicing policies.

Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

2012-02-22 -- 2013-03-25
  1. The public-use data file contains 311 variables while the restricted-use data file contains 320 variables due to remediation conducted by the PI in order to protect respondent confidentiality.


The purpose of this study is to assess attitudes toward bisexual people and compare them to attitudes toward homosexual and heterosexual people. Because the word "bisexual" has many different meanings, some of the initial questions were designed to discern exactly what this word meant to each participant.

Some people in the United States express strong negative feelings toward gay men and lesbians. There is also evidence that some people (gay and straight) hold strong negative feelings toward bisexual men and women. There are stereotypes of both bisexual and homosexual people, but some of these stereotypes differ substantially between these two groups. In this study, researchers intended to assess these stereotypes and identify how they relate to differences in feelings toward bisexual and homosexual people.

After giving informed consent, participants completed the PNS (Personal Need for Structure) scale. Next, all participants were asked to rate 11 possible definitions of "bisexual man" and "bisexual woman" and then select their preferred definition. They also rated a set of statements about the political status of sexual orientation.

Participants were then randomly assigned to rate 1 of 6 target groups: heterosexual men, heterosexual women, bisexual men, bisexual women, homosexual men, or homosexual women. This language was chosen to maintain the consistency of phrasing between conditions. Participants completed measures of their evaluations of the target group, perceptions of the stability of the target group's sexual orientation, and trait stereotypes about the target group.

Next, participants completed the measures of sexual permissiveness and gender ideology in a counterbalanced order. Participants then specified their gender, race and/or ethnicity, religious identification(s), and sexual orientation, all with open-ended response fields to enable participants to respond flexibly and to avoid presenting some response options as particularly desirable. Participants were grouped into categories using algorithms designed to account for misspellings, synonyms, and abbreviations. The algorithm for sexual orientation categorized participants as heterosexual, gay/lesbian, bisexual, or other, via a process that was independently shown to line up with forced-choice self-categorizations. Finally, participants completed measures of political orientation and religiosity.

Participants included 103 lesbian women, 147 gay men, 3 homosexual participants who did not specify gender, 3 homosexual participants who specified nonbinary gender identities, 664 heterosexual women, 454 heterosexual men, and 5 heterosexual participants who did not specify gender (N = 1379). This project applied the same experimental method to four samples, which are referred to as samples A, B, C, and D. The framing of the study in recruitment materials and consent forms was consistent across samples. Only adults living in the United States at the time of participation were considered eligible.

  • Sample A (n = 935; 772 heterosexual, 163 gay/lesbian) consisted of volunteers who completed the study online without compensation. These participants were recruited via websites hosting classified advertisements, blogs, and paid advertisements on listservs and social networking platforms (e.g., Craigslist, Facebook).
  • Sample B (n = 180; 168 heterosexual, 12 gay/lesbian) consisted of paid workers from's Mechanical Turk (MTurk) service, which is designed to facilitate rapid completion of online tasks requiring human input.
  • Sample C (n = 121; 63 heterosexual, 58 gay/lesbian) consisted of workers from's participant pool, who earned points that could be redeemed for gift cards. Based on pre-existing demographic information, the study was made available to sexual minorities without alerting them to the fact that sexual orientation played a role in their eligibility.
  • Sample D (n = 143; 120 heterosexual, 23 gay/lesbian) consisted of participants who completed paper copies of the survey in a university setting. These participants were recruited via local e-mail lists and fliers posted in businesses around campus and the city. Each paper-and-pencil participant was paid $10 to complete an extended version of the survey, which contained additional measures presented after the main survey so as not to alter the procedure.


Adults living in the United States at the time of participation


Personal Need for Structure Scale (PNS), Neuberg & Newsom (1993)



2023-01-30 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Created variable labels and/or value labels.
  • Created online analysis version with question text.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.