GALLUP NEWS SERVICE
In the aftermath of the tragic events in Littleton, Colorado this week, a Gallup poll taken Wednesday evening found that most Americans believe the shooting rampage at Columbine High School by two students is evidence of deeper problems in the United States. Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed said the attack, which left a teacher and 14 students-including the two gunmen-dead, is an indication of serious problems, compared to only 17% who see the event as an isolated incident. At the same time only a bare majority of the public, 53%, expresses confidence that government and society can do anything to prevent similar acts of violence in the future. Two-thirds consider it likely that a similar incident could happen in their own community.
Americans' skepticism about acts of teen violence similar to the one that occurred in Littleton may not be surprising given that the attack at Columbine High School is, according to Associated Press reports, the seventh fatal shooting at a U.S. high school in less than two years. However, when presented with several specific proposals, Americans appear somewhat more optimistic that there are effective ways to curtail the problem of violence in schools. In particular, Americans indicate significant confidence in the potential impact of stricter gun control laws and teen counseling, with roughly three in five Americans (62% and 60% respectively) saying each of these measures would be a "very effective" way to stop violence in high schools and middle schools. About half of those interviewed also believe that metal detectors at schools, stricter regulation of violence on TV and in movies, and restricting teenagers' access to certain material on the Internet would be very effective measures. Student dress codes and random body searches, two remedies that sometimes raise civil libertarian objections, are considered very effective by only a third of the public.
Two proposals aimed at parents also fall short of receiving the confidence of a majority of Americans. Only a third of the public, 34%, believe that enacting stiffer penalties for the parents of children who commit crimes would be very effective at preventing future incidents. A slightly larger percentage, 47%, believe that holding parents legally responsible for crimes children commit with their parents' guns would be very effective.
Guns and Parents Blamed Most
Americans' confidence in the effectiveness of various measures largely mirrors their judgement about the factors that are to blame for the attack in Littleton, Colorado. Out of seven factors measured in the survey, the one to which the largest percentage of Americans ascribe heavy blame is the availability of guns, with 60% saying it deserves "a great deal" of blame for shootings like this. A majority, 51%, also places a high degree of blame on parents, while 49% say that popular entertainment in the form of TV, movies and music bear a great deal of blame. Social pressures on youth, media coverage of similar incidents, the Internet and schools are significantly less likely to be blamed.
Women Particularly Critical of Role of Guns
Women are substantially more likely than men to cite the availability of guns as a significant factor contributing to school shootings. Women are also more likely to express confidence that stricter gun laws for teenagers would be a very effective preventive solution. Only 47% of men, compared to 73% of women, blame gun availability "a great deal" for causing U.S. school shootings like the one in Littleton-a 26-percentage-point difference. Similarly, just 53% of men compared to 70% of women think stricter gun laws would be very effective-a 17-point difference.
Other areas on which men and women differ include the Internet and TV, movies, and music. In both cases women are more likely than men to hold these factors highly responsible for contributing to teen violence in schools.
These results are based on Gallup interviews with 659 national adults, conducted by telephone April 21, 1999, and have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.
In your opinion, how likely is it that these kinds of shootings could happen in your community, is it very likely, somewhat likely, somewhat unlikely, or very unlikely
|99 Apr 21||98 Apr 18-20^|
|Somewhat unlikely, or||14||15|
^ NBC/WALL STREET JOURNAL Question Wording: "As you may know, two young boys recently shot and killed several people at a school in Jonesboro, Arkansas. In your opinion, how likely is it that these kinds of shootings could happen in your community -- is it very likely, somewhat likely, somewhat unlikely, or very unlikely?"
Which of the following statements comes closer to your view of shootings like the one in Colorado -- 1) They are indications that there is something seriously wrong in the country today (or) 2) They are isolated incidents that do not indicate anything about the country in general (or) [ROTATE 1-2]?
|They are indications that there is something seriously wrong in the country today (or)||79%|
|They are isolated incidents that do not indicate anything about the country in general (or)||17|
How much do you blame each of the following for causing shootings like the one in Littleton, Colorado -- would you say a great deal, a moderate amount, not much or not at all? First, how much do you blame ... ? How about ... ? ROTATE A-G
|A. The Internet|
|Not at all||11|
|Not at all||4|
|Not at all||22|
|D. TV programs, movies and music|
|Not at all||6|
|E. Availability of guns|
|Not at all||9|
|F. Social pressures on youth|
|Not at all||5|
|G. Media coverage of similar incidents|
|Not at all||9|
In your view, how effective are each of the following as a way to stop violence in high schools and middle schools -- very effective, somewhat effective, not too effective, or not effective at all? First, ... . How about ...? ROTATE A-I
|A. Metal detectors in schools|
|Not too effective||8|
|Not effective at all||4|
|B. Random body searches of students|
|Not too effective||13|
|Not effective at all||15|
|C. Stricter gun control laws for teenagers|
|Not too effective||6|
|Not effective at all||12|
|D. Stricter regulation of violence on TV and in movies|
|Not too effective||10|
|Not effective at all||9|
|E. School dress codes|
|Not too effective||15|
|Not effective at all||17|
|F. Restrictions on what is available to teenagers on the Internet|
|Not too effective||10|
|Not effective at all||8|
|G. Increased counseling for teenagers|
|Not too effective||5|
|Not effective at all||5|
|H. Stiffer penalties for parents whose children commit crimes|
|Not too effective||16|
|Not effective at all||20|
|I. Holding parents legally responsible for crimes their children commit with their parents' guns|
|Not too effective||12|
|Not effective at all||12|
Which of the following statements comes closer to your overall view -- 1) Government and society can take action that will be effective in preventing shootings like the one in Colorado from happening again (or) 2) Shootings like the one in Colorado will happen again regardless of what action is taken by government and society (or) [ROTATE 1-2]?
|Government and society can take action that will be effective in preventing shootings like the one in Colorado from happening again||53%|
|Shootings like the one in Colorado will happen again regardless of what action is taken by government and society||43|
* less than 0.5%
(vol.) volunteered response