I've been using Linux solidly now for around two years. The first distribution I tried was Linux Mint (as a user familiar with Windows, it "just worked", with no need to change anything - barely even the need to use the terminal), before migrating over to Ubuntu (I figured since I now had a little more experience, and knew Mint was based on Ubuntu, it would be sensible to try Ubuntu - and move "closer" to the source).
Coming from Mint, which never had the unusual Unity/Dash interface, Ubuntu was something of an uphill struggle to learn to use - I hated it. Eventually though, I discovered KDE, and I'm now a confirmed fan, running Kubuntu 12.10 - this has reaffirmed my love of Linux . The whole having a menu that you can browse through and doesn't randomly disappear, and is at the bottom, where I expect it to be by default, is comforting. The ability to customise everything is also nice - I've read stuff suggesting that there is no where near the same level of this in GNOME/Unity? I'm thinking of a blog post by one Mr L Torvalds in particular...
Originally, I was dual booting. A few months back, I scrubbed my PC clean of Windows completely though, and haven't looked back. However, I do still feel a lingering sense that I'm using KDE not because it is best, but because I've been sort of..."socialised"? by Microsoft. And I really resent that, having left Windows, wanting to get rid of any kind of software coercion!
So, my question to the forum is: what do people use? How popular is each desktop environment, and what makes it so? For instance, "I use Unity because that's what's installed in vanilla Ubuntu" doesn't really strike me as a "fair" reason, not when I'm trying to get to the bottom of what is the best DE.
Also, before it comes up in a reply, I do understand that objectively trying to find the best DE is a little bit of a wild goose chase - obviously personal preference is a major player here. I still think it'd be useful to canvass opinion, however, to weigh up and conclude for myself where I should be heading, and if I'm right sticking with KDE.