Executive Summary

Most high school seniors regard abortion as morally wrong and would severely limit a woman's right to choose, according to a just-completed national poll carried out by researchers at Hamilton College. Also, members of the high school class of 2006 are twice as likely as adults to support legal recognition of gay marriages. The poll on "hot button" political issues also found that support for strong handgun control measures is almost universal among high school seniors. Though liberal on gay and gun issues, this year's high school graduates are conservative on the issues surrounding abortion.

Hamilton Sociology Professor Dennis Gilbert and his students collaborated with the polling firm Zogby International to conduct the national Hot Button Issues Poll. High school seniors were selected for this seventh in the Hamilton Youth Poll series as representatives of a rising generation of Americans and potential voters in November 2006. One thousand high school seniors from across the U.S. were contacted by phone for the study. The poll was funded by Hamilton's Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percent.

Other significant findings from the poll include the following:
  • Three-quarters of this year's high school seniors favor legal recognition of same-sex relationships, either as marriage or civil union.
  • Three in four seniors oppose a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
  • 63 percent support adoption by gay couples.
  • The majority of high school seniors do not believe that a woman who is poor and unable to afford another child should have a legal right to an abortion.
  • Two-thirds of high school seniors would require parental consent before a woman under the age of 18 could legally obtain an abortion.
  • 70 percent of females in the class of 2006 say they would not consider abortion if they became pregnant while in high school. 
  • Yet, more than 60 percent of high school seniors want the Supreme Court to preserve the Roe v. Wade abortion decision.
  • 35 percent of high school seniors say they know of someone at their school who has been shot or threatened with a gun.
  • About 90 percent of high school seniors would impose a 5-day waiting period and mandatory registration on purchasers of handguns.

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