CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Oct. 22, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- A new national poll of young Americans (14- to 29- years-old) finds that school shootings are the most concerning issue when they think about the future of America and that voting age respondents are likely to carry these concerns into voting booths in the midterm elections. The survey also found broad support for stricter gun laws, even among gun owners.
The comprehensive study, directed by John Della Volpe, CEO of SocialSphere and Director of Polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, began in June 2018 with six focus groups and town meetings with young Americans in Atlanta, Columbus and Los Angeles.
The objective of the sessions was to better understand life in America today and the impact of current events on youths' outlook for the future. The interviews eventually extended to student activists from Parkland, Florida and Chicago. In September, SocialSphere conducted a national survey of 2,235 young Americans (14-29 years old) using NORC at the University of Chicago's AmeriSpeak probability-based panel. The research was funded by the Joyce Foundation.
"While talk of school shootings may have quieted in the media, this Columbine Generation—who has grown up facing the threat of school shootings every day—has been traumatized and remains energized unlike any time since September 11th," said Della Volpe.
This new data demonstrates that the strong desire to address school shootings through public policy is impacting both this generation's view of the country's future and their likely engagement in the midterm elections. According to one respondent:
"An older generation would not understand walking into a classroom […] and thinking 'this could be a really easy room for someone to shoot up.' The same daily weight on an adults' shoulders such as bills, and taxes is what children feel about living or dying."
Below is a snapshot of the findings.
School shootings identified as most important issue:
- School shootings topped a list of 15 issues concerning the future of America. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of young Americans in the survey rated school shootings a 6 or 7 (top two boxes on a scale from 1 to 7) in terms of importance.
- Concern about school shootings was followed by access to higher education (64%), healthcare reform (64%) and job creation (62%).
There is broad-based support for stricter gun laws, even among gun owners:
- Seventy percent (70%) of young Americans believe that gun laws should be stricter, with thirty-seven percent (37%) of those respondents advocating that existing gun laws be a "lot more strict."
- In contrast, only 10 percent (10%) believe current gun laws should be made less strict, while 20 percent (20%) believe the laws should remain the same.
- Among gun owners over the age of 18, there is a two to one margin of support for stricter gun laws: 47 percent (47%) support stricter laws, 22 percent (22%) are in favor of less strict laws and 31 percent (31%) believe current gun laws should remain as they are.
- Among voting age Americans (18-29 years old), opinions are similar, with 71 percent (71%) in favor of stricter laws. Notably, a Harvard Institute of Politics poll conducted in March 2018 found that 64 percent of 18-29-year-olds supported stricter gun laws, indicating that the post-Parkland energy of young people has not dissipated.
The findings indicate that young voters are likely to carry their concerns about school shootings and gun laws into voting booths in the midterm elections.
- While two-thirds (67%) of voting age Americans (18-29 years old) report that school shootings are one of America's most pressing issues, that figure rises to 71 percent (71%) when asked of those most likely to vote (34% of the total cohort).
- Among the most likely voters, 58 percent (58%) rated school shootings as a 7 (extremely important) on the 1 to 7 scale.
- Likely voters also overwhelmingly favored stricter gun laws (80%), thought current gun laws make the country less safe (67%) and believed the number of school shootings will increase over the next 10 years (57%).
- Nearly half (46%) of likely voters have participated in a school shooting drill, but only 16 percent (16%) indicated it made them feel safer.