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Support for Gun Control Is Lower Among Young Adults

Advocates of gun control often suggest time is on their side because young people are more likely than older people to support gun control. But in a new analysis of demographic trends, Olin College Professor of Computer Science Allen Downey shows that may not be the case.

Downey, who looked at decades worth of data, says that Millennials – those born between 1983 and 2000 – are substantially less likely to support gun control than previous generations.  

Among people born before 1980, support for gun control is strong; around 75 percent for people born between 1910 and 1940, and approaching 80 percent for people born between 1950 and 1980.  But among people born in the 1980s and 90s, support for gun control is below 70 percent.

Downey says, "Hearing students from Florida advocate for gun control, I assumed that they were speaking for their generation.  When I looked at the data, I was surprised."

These findings come as the national conversation about gun control is heating up in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shootings in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17—including many high school students.

Downey's analysis uses data from the General Social Survey (GSS) and the CIRP Freshman Survey.  The GSS survey asks:

Would you favor or oppose a law which would require a person to obtain a police permit before he or she could buy a gun?

The HERI Freshman Survey asks whether respondents agree that 

The federal government should do more to control the sale of handguns

This dataset shows the same pattern: a large majority of people born before 1980 supported gun control; among people born after 1980, support has dropped.

These results are consistent with surveys from the Pew Research Center and a Gallup poll.

A complete analysis of Downey’s research can be found here.