Study Reveals Youth Attitudes about Guns

Released: 1/14/2013 4:30 PM EST
Source Newsroom: American University
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Newswise — Washington, D.C. (January 14, 2013): Despite growing up in a post-Columbine world, more young people plan on owning a gun than had them in their childhood homes, according to a national poll of more than 4,000 high school and college students conducted by Jennifer L. Lawless (American University) and Richard L. Fox (Loyola Marymount University). This finding suggests a possible reversal of a trend that pointed to decreasing gun ownership.

More specifically, one-third of young people report growing up with a gun in the household. And 36 percent report being “very worried” about gun violence. Yet nearly 40 percent of respondents plan to own a gun when they have their own household, and an additional 20 percent are considering it.

These results are based on a national sample of 2,100 college students (ages 18 through 25) and 2,166 high school students (ages 13 through 17). The poll, conducted by American University / GfK Custom Research LLC, was in the field from September 27 – October 16, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points.

Key Findings from the Poll of High School and College Students:

PERSONALITY TRAITS: Roughly 50% of young people who self-identify as “depressed,” “stressed out,” and/or have “difficulty making friends” plan to have a gun in their household.

VIDEO GAMES: High school students who regularly play video games for more than 4 hours per day are 50 percent more likely than those who do not typically play video games to report plans to own a gun. The results are similar, but less pronounced, among college students.

GENDER GAP: Girls and young women (40%) more likely than their male counterparts (32%) to fear gun violence and less likely to report planning on owning a gun in the future.

RACE GAP: Half of the Black respondents fear gun violence, compared to only 31 percent of White respondents. Blacks are less likely than Whites to report planning on owning a gun in the future.

PARTY GAP: Democrats are nearly twice as likely as Republicans to fear gun violence (45% compared to 25%) and less likely to report planning on owning a gun in the future.

Summary of Results – High School and College Students’ Exposure and Attitudes toward Guns
High School StudentsCollege StudentsTotal Sample
Grew up with a gun in the household
Yes34 %33 %33 %
No586260
Don’t Know857
Plans on having a gun in own home when older
Yes324338
Maybe281723
No404040
“Very worried” about gun violence when thinking about the future343836
Sample Size216321174280
National poll conducted by American University / GfK Custom Research LLC, from September 27 – October 16, 2012. Margin of error of ± 2.2 percentage points.

Relationship between Video Game Use and Plans to Own a Gun
Plays No Video Games on a Typical DayPlays Video Games for 1 – 4 Hours on a Typical DayPlays Video Games for more than 4 hours on a typical day
Percent of High School Students28%34%42%
Percent of College Students who Plan to Own a Gun in the Future37%46%49%
National poll conducted by American University / GfK Custom Research LLC, from September 27 –
October 16, 2012. Results based on a sample of 2,163 high school students and 2,117 college students. Margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points.

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Lawless and Fox are available to discuss the survey results.

Jennifer L. Lawless is an associate professor of Government at American University, where she is also the director of the Women & Politics Institute. She is the author of Becoming a Candidate: Political Ambition and the Decision to Run for Office (2012) and the co-author of It Still Takes A Candidate: Why Women Don’t Run for Office (2010). She is also a nationally recognized speaker, and her scholarly analysis and political commentary have been quoted in various newspapers, magazines, television news programs, and radio shows. In 2006, she sought the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives in Rhode Island’s second district.

Richard L. Fox is a professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University. He is the author of Gender Dynamics in Congressional Elections (1997) and co-author of It Still Takes A Candidate: Why Women Don’t Run for Office (2010), Tabloid Justice: The Criminal Justice System in the Age of Media Frenzy (2001). He is also co-editor, with Susan J. Carroll, of Gender and Elections (2010). He has written several op-ed articles that have appeared in national media outlets, such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.


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