With the midterm election days away, candidates must commit to a clear gun safety message to win the youth vote – a critical demographic that will likely determine election results.
NEW YORK — A new poll released today, conducted by March For Our Lives and Change Research, finds that gun violence is a key issue on young voters’ minds as they head to the ballot box. In a national survey of 811 likely voters under the age of 35, administered from October 28-31, we found that gun laws ranks high among the top issues for young people, and that once again a majority of respondents believe current gun laws in America are not restrictive enough. These findings indicate a clear path for candidates to embrace gun safety as a winning issue to turn out the young demographic. There is still time to reach the critical youth voting bloc with a commitment to gun safety legislation.
Notably, the more ambitious a candidate’s gun policies, the more likely young voters are to support them. 57% of respondents indicated that they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports a package of universal background checks, raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21 years old, and passing an assault weapons ban. There was no net benefit to supporting a narrower set of these policies.
“The one thing about gun violence and young people is that the numbers are nearly always consistent. Young people are terrified of gun violence because no one in America is safe from it,” said Zeenat Yahya, Director of Policy at March For Our Lives. “This poll bears that out once again. In an election with razor thin margins, candidates who appeal to young voters and appeal to their top issues—including gun violence—may just tip the scales in their favor. It’s an animating issue, and a potent response to ‘law-and-order’ messaging. This late in the game, it’s about turnout, and gun violence is an issue that has turned out the youth vote in the last two cycles and it could do it again.”
Key findings from this national survey include:
A 53% majority of voters under 35 report they frequently or occasionally worry about their personal safety from gun violence, and as many (52%) worry about their safety from a mass shooting. Tellingly, seventy percent believe there is at least a 50% chance that they will be a victim of gun violence, including 13% who report already experiencing gun violence.
Young Voters Are More Disillusioned with Congress on Gun Safety Than Other Issues. Only 37% of voters under 35 believe that Democrats in Congress have worked to make things better, compared to 60% that say the GOP has worked to make things work. Our survey indicates that this is because young voters don’t believe congress goes far enough to support gun safety, a clear opportunity for candidates eager to win these votes.
57% of youth voters indicate that support for a comprehensive gun safety package would make them more likely to vote for a candidate, compared to 33% who say it would reduce support. In order to reach the disillusioned young voters still on the table in these last days of the campaign, candidates should lean heavily into aggressive plans to curb gun violence with their communications to voters under 35.
Common-sense gun safety laws would make young people feel safer, a finding that is consistent with polls over the last several years. There’s widespread support for common-sense gun safety laws, with 76% of youth voters indicating that universal background checks would make them feel safer; 75% feeling safer with required gun safety courses; 64% feeling safer without “permitless carry” laws; and 59% feeling safer with laws that raise the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21.
“In Wisconsin, all of my friends and all the young people I talk to when I organize with March For Our Lives say the same thing: It’s a matter of when, not if, we’ll experience gun violence,” said Aileen Kearney, 17, a youth organizer with March For Our Lives Wisconsin. “Every week seems to drive that point further with yet another shooting in our schools or in our neighborhoods. There’s so much noise but what I really want to know is whether or not the people who speak for me in Washington will fight for my right to live and protect me from gun violence.”
“When will politicians listen to youth? Young people are desperate to feel safe, and we want gun safety laws,” said Mariah Cooley, 21, Youth Board member at March For Our Lives. “I hear it all the time on campus; why aren’t people talking more about gun laws? We know that gun violence is a crisis, and young people are really turned off by all the dated rhetoric around “law and order,” but not enough candidates are talking boldly about things like universal background checks and raising the minimum age. No one is eager to go vote for someone who doesn’t speak to them. Bold stances on gun safety are a powerful way to speak to young peoples’ needs and turn us out to the polls.”
“Surviving the shooting at my high school in Oxford, Michigan showed me just how inevitable the threat of gun violence is on the lives of Americans,” said Madeline Johnson, 18, a youth organizer with March For Our Lives Michigan. “Even in my small town which was known to be exceptionally safe, a shooter killed four of my classmates, including my best friend, and left the entire community grieving. This epidemic of gun violence is so prevalent, it’s no surprise that the majority of youth recognize that gun violence will surely affect them if it hasn’t already. It’s far overdue for our elected officials to take action to stop this horrific cycle.”
“With the midterm elections just days away, it’s clear that candidates must commit to a gun violence prevention platform to gain the youth vote,” said Olivia Schramkowski, 18, a Movement Organizer with March For Our Lives in Georgia. “My generation learned how to use a desk as a shield from bullets before we learned our ABCs and grew up with constant coverage of shooting after shooting. Our childhoods were defined by gun violence, and now that we’re old enough to vote, we demand that candidates take a clear stance on gun safety. We will not sit idly by and put politicians into office if they won’t put an end to gun violence.”
The 2022 midterm election falls during a year that saw horrific back-to-back mass shootings, which shook the nation and prompted immediate support for stronger gun safety laws not seen since 2018. After we marched for a second time in Washington, D.C. and cities across the country this summer, Congress passed the first gun control law in 30 years, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, and dozens of bills were passed in state legislatures to limit access to firearms, especially for those under 21. Meanwhile, an Assault Weapons Ban bill passed the House in a historic vote, and currently sits in the Senate for action. These poll results confirm that among young people, the voting demographic most affected by gun violence in America, more needs to be done by those in office to end this deadly epidemic, starting with prioritizing gun safety on the campaign trail.
About March For Our Lives
March For Our Lives is a national youth-led movement to end gun violence in America. Its mission is to harness the power of young people across the country to fight for sensible gun violence prevention policies that save lives. Since March 2018, students from all across the United States have called for common-sense reforms that will save the lives of more than 3,000 young people each year, including implementing universal, comprehensive background checks; creating a searchable database for gun owners; investing in violence intervention programs, specifically in disenfranchised communities; funding the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence so that reform policies are backed up by data, and banning high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic assault rifles. Concurrently, March For Our Lives has established nearly 300 youth-led chapters across the country, continuously growing this chapter network to give young people a local forum to exercise their activism. For more information, visit marchforourlives.org.