Professor of Economics Stephen Wu has analyzed attitudes towards gun control from a 2013 Levitt Center survey of American high school sophomore, junior and senior students. His findings, available online, are forthcoming in the journal Social Sciences.
"The debate on gun control and gun rights is something that sharply divides the U.S. Congress as well as the American public. My research suggests that while tragic events that appeal to people's emotions may increase the division on these issues, providing objective information and data regarding gun laws and gun violence may be more likely to change people’s minds about firearm policies,” said Wu.
“For students who most closely identify as Republicans, cueing them to think about prior school shootings increases their agreement that armed staff in schools will improve safety and arming citizens will reduce risk of mass shootings. Providing the same students with selective information that certain states have loose gun control laws and high rates of gun violence makes them less supportive of gun rights.
“For those identifying as Democrats and Independents, providing them with selective information that certain states have loose gun control laws and low rates of gun violence makes them more supportive of gun rights. These results suggest that emotional cues may exacerbate pre-existing biases, while informational cues may be more likely to change people’s minds about firearm policies.”