In the days and weeks immediately following the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, scores of children, teens, parents and adults have expressed anguish, fear and anger while Americans continue to grapple with an increasing number of mass shootings in recent years. In a new Momentive poll of 21,898 adults and 354 teens we look at how sentiment has changed since the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Teens remain concerned about gun violence
A third of teens (34%) say they “worry a lot” about being a victim of a mass shooting – surpassing the number of adults who say the same (22%) – yet virtually unchanged from a 2018 SurveyMonkey poll (34%). On the other hand, adults are more concerned now than before: 22% say they “worry a lot” about being a victim of a mass shooting, compared with 16% in 2018. Adults of color are especially concerned: 47% of Asians, 39% of Blacks, and 36% of Hispanics say they worry a lot about being the victim of a mass shooting; all up around 10 points from the previous survey.
In the years since the Stoneman Douglas shooting, active shooter drill participation is up – and not just among teens. The majority of teens (59%) have participated in an active shooter drill, up from 51% in 2018. Participation has increased among adults too: 37% of adults have participated in an active shooter drill, up 8 points from 29% in 2018 – a signal of America’s increasing attempts to prepare.
In order to prevent more mass shootings, more continue to say they would prioritize mental health over gun control. Six in 10 adults (59%) and 56% of teens prioritize mental health. Four in 10 (41%) teens prioritize gun control – a slight shift in ideology among teens as about half (49%) favored gun control in 2018 while the other half prioritized mental health (48%).Yet, adults’ opinions remain unchanged: 57% prioritized mental health in 2018.
Majorities of teens, adults say gun violence is major problem in U.S., but not in their community
Over six in 10 (64%) teens and 63% of adults say gun violence is a major problem in the U.S., a sharp increase from a similar poll Pew conducted in 2021 where 48% of adults said gun violence is a “very big problem” in the country today.
Yet, few Americans feel as though gun violence is a major problem in their community: just 16% of teens along with 26% of adults say gun violence is a major problem in their community. Overall, when it comes to gun violence in their community, American adults are split:
- 26% say gun violence is a major problem;
- 25% say it’s a moderate problem;
- 25% say it’s a minor problem;
- 23% say it’s not a problem at all
Among gun owners or those with guns in the house, gun violence is less of an issue: 40% of teens along with 47% of adults who have guns in the home say gun violence is a major issue in the U.S. On the other hand, 77% of adults and 78% of teens who don’t have guns in the house say the same.
- Democratic adults are more likely than Republican adults and teens to say gun violence is a major problem – both in the United States (89% vs. 38%) and in their community (38% vs. 12%)
Teens are far more likely than adults to say that there would be more crime if more Americans owned guns, (56% vs. 41%). Adults are more than twice as likely as teens to say more guns would lead to less crime (27% vs. 13%).
- Adults who are gun owners or have guns in the home are more than twice as likely as those without guns to say increasing the number of guns would bring less crime (40% vs. 16%)
- Republican adults are far more likely than Democratic adults to say more guns would lead to less crime (51% vs. 8%)
Teens, adults mostly in agreement on how to make schools safer
The overwhelming majority of adults (83%) and 73% of teens say the presence of armed guards would make school a safer place – the highest support for any potential solution to gun violence. Yet, teens and adults are in disagreement over arming teachers and school officials: just 40% of teens feel this would make schools safer compared with 52% of adults.
- The presence of an armed guard was also a top priority in 2018 (70% of teens along with 82% of adults said this would make schools safer)
- Despite disagreement between teens and adults, support for arming teachers and school officials has risen over time: just 31% of teens and 42% of adults said arming teachers would make schools safer in 2018
But, when it comes to household safety, teens and adults are roughly in agreement: 61% of teens and 67% of adults feel having a gun in the house makes it a safer place. Support for guns in the household is up slightly among adults (was 64% in 2018) and teens (was 55% in 2018). Teens are still more likely than adults to say having a gun in the house makes the house more dangerous (36% vs 30%); though the divide has lessened (in 2018, 43% of teens and 33% of adults said guns make the home more dangerous).
- This is particularly true for those who already have guns in the home: 86% of adults along with 77% of teens with guns at home feel having a gun in the house makes it a safer place
Adults are more likely than teens to have a favorable impression of the NRA (45% of adults have a favorable impression vs. 34% of teens), roughly unchanged from 2018 (45% of adults had a favorable impression along with 36% of teens).
- Favorability of the NRA increases for both teens and adults with guns in the home, but is highest among adults (63%) compared with teens (43%)
- 80% of Republicans have a favorable impression of the NRA – five times higher than Democratic adults (16%)
While majorities of adults (75%) and teens (65%) support setting a national minimum age of 21 to buy an AR-15 style rifle, support among teens has dropped 11 points (from 76%) since 2018. However, support remains roughly unchanged among adults (78% of adults supported a minimum age in 2018).
- Both teen and adult gun owners (or those with guns in the house) and non-gun owners are roughly in agreement: 75% of adults along with 72% of teens with guns at home and support a national minimum age compared with 76% of adults and 64% of teens without guns at home
Similarly, support for a federal ban on assault-style weapons had decreased very slightly over time: in 2018, 68% of teens and 66% of adults said a federal ban on assault-style weapons would make the U.S. a safer place. Now, 65% of teens and 64% of adults say the same.
Gun policy activism slumps in the years following Stoneman Douglas
In the years since the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, activism – among both teens and adults – has dropped. In our 2018 poll conducted a few weeks after the shooting in Parkland, teens were more than three times as likely as adults (12% vs. 4%) to have attended a rally or event on gun policy. Now, that number is at just 6% among teens and 4% of among adults. However, March For Our Lives is planning an upcoming day of activism on June 11th, so that number might rise again as attention remains focused on the topic.
Teens and adults are even less active on social media: just 22% of teens and 23% of adults have shared their thoughts on gun policy via social media in the last year, down from 2018 when 30% of teens and 29% of adults leveraged social media to share thoughts on gun policy.
But, some teens and adults are still active: 38% of teens who worry a lot about being the victim of a mass shooting have taken to social media to voice their thoughts on gun policy – double that of those who worry “a little” about being a victim of a mass shooting (18%).
- Adults and teens who have very closely followed the news coverage of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas are most likely to have contacted a public official to express their opinion on gun policy (16% and 12%, respectively)
- Teens who don’t have a gun in the house are far more likely than teens who do to have contacted a public official to express their opinion on gun policy (9% vs. 3%)
Gun policy activism may, in part, be on the decline as both teens (38%) and adults (38%) are most likely to say the main reason gun control proposals have yet to become law is because gun ownership is protected by the Second Amendment. This notion has grown slightly in popularity among both teens and adults: 34% of teens and 36% of adults cited the Second Amendment as a blockade for gun control proposals in 2018.
- Adults are more likely than teens to cite the influence of lobbying groups like the NRA (28% vs. 18%)
- Teens are twice as likely as adults to say gun control advocates haven’t been well organized (10% vs. 6%)
- Teens and adults are almost in agreement that politicians haven’t been trying hard enough (20% vs. 15%)