Research Reports

“Columbine Generation” Ranks School Shootings as Top Issue Facing America’s Future


The generation of young Americans growing up in the post-Columbine era of school shootings and active shooter drills has no doubt about the top issue facing America’s future. And they are determined to stop the bloodshed by pushing for tougher gun laws.

A new national poll finds that school shootings top a list of 15 issues for Americans ages 14-29, and that there is broad support for stricter gun laws -- even among those who own guns. Among voting-age respondents, the concern about school shootings is even greater.

“While talk of school shootings may have quieted in the media, this Columbine Generation that has grown up facing the threat of school shootings every day has been traumatized and remains energized unlike any time since September 11th,” said study director John Della Volpe.

Said a participant in one of the focus groups that helped shape the survey questionnaire:

“An older generation would not understand walking into a classroom … and thinking, ‘this could be a really easy room for someone to shoot up.’”

Other top issues of concern for these young people were access to higher education, health care reform, and job creation.

Among other findings in the poll conducted by Della Volpe, CEO of SocialSphere, a Cambridge, Mass. opinion research firm and Director of Polling at Harvard’s Kennedy School Institute of Politics:

  • 70 percent of young Americans believe gun laws should be stricter, with 37 percent of them advocating for gun laws that are a “lot more strict.”
  • Among voting-age respondents, 80 percent favor stricter gun laws and 67 percent think current gun laws make the country less safe.

The SocialSphere research, conducted in September, was funded by the Joyce Foundation.

Said Nina Vinik, director of the foundation’s Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform Program:

“This research shows that concern about school shootings lasts long beyond any particular incident. For the 'Columbine Generation' who have grown up with school shootings and lockdown drills, this is a unifying issue. Policy makers should pay close attention to these findings.”

Additional findings from the survey will be released in coming weeks. Further information on the initial results can be found here.

About The Joyce Foundation

Joyce is a nonpartisan, private foundation that invests in evidence-informed public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.

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