Millennials Are No More Liberal On Gun Control Than Elders, Polls Show Polling suggests millennials are more liberal than earlier generations on many social issues except gun laws. Pollsters say they can't explain this anomaly. Some millennials are surprised by it, too.
NPR logo

Millennials Are No More Liberal On Gun Control Than Elders, Polls Show

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/588069946/588567665" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Millennials Are No More Liberal On Gun Control Than Elders, Polls Show

Millennials Are No More Liberal On Gun Control Than Elders, Polls Show

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/588069946/588567665" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

In the days since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., there have been calls for more gun control from high school students around the country. There's a lot of polling that indicates young people skew more liberal on social issues than their elders with one notable exception, and that's guns. Young adults are no more liberal than their parents or grandparents when it comes to gun control. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang has more.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: How are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: We're going to start the sign-in sheet this week. So if you want to come over...

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Every week, inside a red brick building at the University of Delaware, there's a gathering of young advocates of the Second Amendment.

JORDAN RIGER: My name is Jordan Riger. I'm 22, and I'm the treasurer of the Students for the Second Amendment club here at UD.

WANG: Riger is keeping attendance on her laptop which shows off a yellow NRA bumper sticker with the words don't tread on my gun rights. On tonight's meeting agenda is a discussion about the gunman who killed 17 high school students and staff in Parkland, Fla.

RIGER: That's a violation of the Second Amendment. That's not what it was intended for, in my own personal view.

WANG: Riger was 18 when she took an NRA course on pistol shooting. She sees guns as self-defense tools, but she thinks many of her millennial peers don't.

RIGER: We are living in a time right now where we're seeing a lot more of these mass casualties. So I think when people don't know that much about firearms, when they see it on the news used in a horrible fashion, that's like all they associate it with.

FRANK NEWPORT: The question is, should gun laws in the U.S. be made more strict, less strict or kept as they are now?

WANG: That's what Frank Newport's polling organization, Gallup, has asked the under-30 crowd over the past three years. What they found was millennials feel pretty much the same about gun control as their elders. But Kim Parker, who leads social trends polling at the Pew Research Center, says millennials are more conservative than older generations when it comes to two gun control proposals.

KIM PARKER: The biggest gap that we see is on banning assault-style weapons.

WANG: And on banning high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Pew's polling last year found that a greater share of millennials, both Republicans and Democrats, are more conservative when it comes to those bans compared to older generations.

PARKER: What we're hearing now in the immediate aftermath of Parkland might not be representative of what a whole generation feels.

WANG: To be clear, some demographers argue that millennials make up one part of today's generation of young people. They say that millennials include people born in the '80s and all the way through 2000 and that the teenaged high school activists who have been organizing since the Florida shooting are part of a separate group some call Generation Z. Still, for 19-year-old Abigail Kaye, who considers herself a millennial, the polling results about her peers come as a shock.

ABIGAIL KAYE: I think that's surprising because I feel like we're a more progressive generation.

WANG: Kaye said says she remembers hearing about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School when she was growing up about a couple hours away. Fellow University of Delaware student Cahlil Evans is 20 and says he doesn't need a gun. And he can understand why people would want hunting rifles and handguns, but assault-style rifles?

CAHLIL EVANS: There's no need for these high-caliber rifles that pierce through walls. And people can say they use them for hunting or whatever. But why do you need a weapon with such high caliber that'll pierce through the animal and like eight trees behind it?

JEREMY GRUNDEN: I base what we need off of what the military has.

WANG: Jeremy Grunden is 22, president of the students for the Second Amendment at the University of Delaware. And he says he's encouraged to hear that millennials are less likely to support banning assault-style weapons.

GRUNDEN: When it comes comes like the Second Amendment, we're supposed to be a well-armed and well-maintained militia and all that. Quite frankly, I feel like we need that and plus more.

WANG: Many of the high schoolers organizing next month's march for our lives in Washington, D.C., say what the country needs is more gun control. But pollsters say it's unclear right now if they really represent the voice of Generation Z. Why? Well, pollsters generally don't count the views of those under 18. So we probably won't have national polling on that until more of them are officially adults. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, Newark, Del.

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.