A New Poll Shows What Teenagers Really Think About Guns

Teens' opinions often mirror adults' views, but some differences stand out.
Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

Teenagers don’t want armed teachers in their schools, according to a new SurveyMonkey poll, which outlines some of the ― often modest ― differences between teens and adults on issues about guns.

There’s been plenty of gun polling in the aftermath of last month’s Parkland, Florida, shooting, but most has looked only at opinions among adults. The results provide a new set of information on the generation coming of age amid seemingly-endless headlines about mass shootings.

More than a third of teenagers, but just 16 percent of adults, said they worried a lot about becoming the victim of a mass shooting. The majority of teens, but fewer than three in 10 adults, said they’d gone through an active-shooter drill.

Teens were 8 points likelier than adults to say that they’d prioritize federal action on gun policy, rather than mental health, to prevent future mass shootings. They were also notably more confident that the student rallies for stricter gun control might have an effect. Nearly 60 percent of the teens, compared to fewer than half of the adults polled, believed that the rallies would lead to a meaningful change in society.

A majority of both adults and teens said that having a gun in the house makes it more dangerous, that they dislike the NRA and that they believe armed guards, but not armed teachers, would contribute to school safety. But there were some differences in degree. Teens were 10 points likelier to say that having a gun in the house makes it more dangerous, and 7 points likelier to hold an unfavorable view of the NRA. And while 82 percent of adults in the poll said they believed armed guards would make schools safer and 42 percent that they thought arming teachers and school officials would protect schools, just 70 percent and 31 percent of teenagers, respectively, said the same.

On other questions, however, age proved to be less of a divide. Just over three-quarters of both teens and adults supported setting a national minimum age of 21 “to buy an AR-15 style rifle.” Just a third of 13-17 year olds, compared to 40 percent of adults, said they’d followed the shooting very closely ― and young Americans weren’t notably likelier than older ones to say they’d taken political action on guns in the past year.

The results come on the heels of other polling that found millennial-aged Americans more familiar than older adults with active shooter drills, and more apt to believe that Congress should take actions on shootings ― but not likelier to support stricter gun laws, or to name gun policy as among their top political priorities. The latest poll suggests that, although student activists have jumpstarted a national debate on guns, their peers’ views on the issue are on the whole only modestly different from the views held by older Americans. (Divides along political lines, by contrast, remain far starker.)

“Gun control simply does not divide generations all that much,” wrote political scientist John Sides.

SurveyMonkey polled 20,975 adults and 733 teenagers online between Feb. 26 and March 5. Respondents were selected from the people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform.

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