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Americans Look to Parents to Stop School Shootings

Americans Look to Parents to Stop School Shootings

Nature of student's home life, availability of guns seen as top factors causing shootings

by David W. Moore

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- As experts ponder what actions, if any, can be effective in curbing the rash of school shootings that have occurred in the United States over the past several years, a new Gallup poll finds that the American public would recommend focusing primarily on students' family situations. More people identify a student's home life than any other reason as an extremely or very important factor in causing school shootings. And when asked to describe in their own words what would be the "single most important thing that could be done to prevent another incidence of school shootings," Americans are most likely to mention greater parental involvement and responsibility. But the poll also shows that the public sees many other causes for the school shootings, especially the easy availability of guns and the portrayal of violence in the entertainment industry.

The poll was conducted March 26-28 and shows that 57% of Americans say that the "home life students have today, including their relationship with their parents" is an "extremely" important cause of the school shootings, with another 35% citing it as a "very" important cause. This 92%, who rate the student's home life as at least "very" important, is the highest number giving this rating among the eight factors measured in the poll. Seventy-seven percent give the same rating to the availability and ease of obtaining guns by students, followed by 68% for the portrayal of violence and use of guns in today's entertainment and music, 67% for the way schools discipline their students, 64% for the coverage given to school shootings by the news media, and 62% for the bullying and teasing of students at school. The least important reasons are the size of the high school (rated as extremely important by just 49% of Americans), and the lack of community roots that some students experience because they move frequently (43%).

IMPORTANCE OF FACTORS CAUSING SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

How important do you think each of the following is as a cause of the school shootings that have been occurring -- extremely important, very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

 


Extremely


Very

TOTAL

Extremely/Very

%

%

%

The home life students have today, including their relationship with their parents

57

35

92

The availability and ease of obtaining guns by students

46

31

77

The portrayal of violence and use of guns in today's entertainment and music

38

30

68

The way schools discipline their students

31

36

67

The coverage given to school shootings by the news media

32

32

64

Bullying and teasing of students at school

29

33

62

The size of high schools today in terms of the number of students who attend

20

29

49

The fact that families move around and the students don't have roots in one specific town

17

26

43

In a separate question, respondents were asked to describe what single action would be the most effective in preventing another school shooting incident. More than three in 10 (31%) mention greater parental involvement and responsibility, while 14% say more security at school, and 11% cite the need for stricter gun control. An additional 6% say better education among parents, students and teachers -- reinforcing the central role that parents are seen to have in any effort to reduce school violence.

 

In your opinion, what is the single most important thing that could be done to prevent another incidence of school shootings by students, like the recent ones in California?

 

2001 Mar 26-28

1999 May 7-9 ^

 

%

%

Parent involvement/responsibility

31

32

More security at schools

14

16

Better gun control/laws/issues

11

12

Better education/students/parents

6

3

Control media violence/video games/Internet

5

4

Lift laws on disciplining children

4

6

Put prayer back in school/home

3

3

Raise morals/people's standards

3

3

Better communication between students/parents/teachers

3

4

Monitor/watch students more closely

3

--

Stop bullies/bullying

2

--

More counselors/counseling/teachers

2

6

Stricter punishment on children/laws

2

2

Report threats/take threats more seriously

1

--

Dress codes/uniforms

*

1

     

None

1

1

Other

2

4

No opinion

7

3

     

^ WORDING: Next we have some questions about the shooting at the Littleton, Colorado high school where two students killed 12 of their classmates and one teacher. In your opinion, what is the single most important thing that could be done to prevent another incidence of school shootings by students, like the one in Littleton?



Public Ambivalent About Role of Media
As shown in the first table above, the news media appear to be held at least partially responsible for the shootings because of extensive coverage devoted to the incidents. More than six in 10 Americans say that such coverage is either extremely (32%) or very (32%) important in causing other shooting incidents. However, when asked directly about news coverage of the incidents, Americans appear to give a more positive rating -- as 57% say the news media have acted responsibly, while just 37% say irresponsibly.

 

Overall, do you feel the news media have acted responsibly or irresponsibly in covering the recent school shootings?

 

Responsibly

Irresponsibly

No opinion

%

%

%

2001 Mar 26-28

57

37

6

1999 Apr 26-27 ^

67

29

4

^

WORDING: Overall, do you feel the news media have acted responsibly or irresponsibly in this situation? (Columbine/Littleton shooting)



Slight Differences in Opinion by Party and Gender
While both women and men identify a student's home life and the availability of guns as the top two causes of school shootings, a larger proportion of women identify each of these causes as "extremely" important than do men. The "gender gap" is relatively small on the home life factor, as 61% of women say it is extremely important, compared with 53% of men. But on the guns factor, the gender gap is substantial: A clear majority of women (54%) cite the availability of guns as extremely important, compared with just 37% of men. Similarly, 48% of women, compared with just 28% of men, say that the portrayal of violence in the entertainment industry is an extremely important cause of the shooting incidents.

Among Republicans and Democrats, the differences are less pronounced. Both groups rate the student's home life as the most important factor, with 58% of Democrats and 59% of Republicans citing it as an extremely important cause of school shootings. However, a majority of Democrats (52%) also cite the availability and ease of obtaining guns as extremely important, compared with only 39% of Republicans.

There are only small differences in opinion between those with and without children currently attending school.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,024 national adults, aged 18+, conducted March 26-28, 2001. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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