Jitters about mass shootings rise nationwide

In the wake of two major mass shooting events over the past 18 months, 39% of Americans are “very” or “somewhat” worried that they or someone in their own families will fall victim to such an attack, according to results of a Gallup telephone poll  of more than 1,000 adults nationwide taken October 5 through October 11.

Overall, 10% of Americans are very worried, 29% are somewhat worried—and, surpisingly enough, a total of 60% of respondents said that they were “not too worried” or “not worried at all.”

The poll reflected the reactions of the adults nationwide to the barrage of gunfire leveled by 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquiate, Nevada, at a crowd of 22,000 country music fans at a concert  in Las Vegas on October 1—killing 58 people and injuring nearly 500 within a few terrifying moments.

The most recent mass shooting followed another on June 12, 2015, during the course of which Omar Saddiqui Mateen, 29, shot and killed at least 49 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida; and injured at least 50.

Gallup noted that its pollsters have asked this “worry” question only twice—and that  U.S. respondents’ current level of anxiety is similar to the angst voiced by respondents to a survey conducted just after the terror-related San Bernardino shooting in December 2015 that left 14 dead.

Indeed, the Washington, DC-based company’s researchers stipulated that that concern about mass shootings might even be lower, if the question were asked at other times. “Still, the similarity of responses between December 2015 and now shows little evidence that worry is ‘ratcheting up’ as these tragic events accumulate, Gallup stated.

Worry about being the victim of a mass shooting is closely linked to partisanship, albeit not in a fixed manner. In 2015, with Democrat Barack Obama in the White House, Republicans were significantly more likely than Democrats to say that they were worried— 46% to 32%. Now, with a Republican president, the two partisan groups have flipped and Democrats are admitting to higher anxiety (49% to 27%)..

There are differences in worry across other population subgroups as well. Women are twice as likely to be worried as men are, and those under 55 are more worried than those who are older.

Gun owners are less worried than those who do not personally own a gun. Additionally, Americans who say that gun laws should be made stricter are more than twice as likely to be worried as those who want gun laws to stay the same or become less strict.

The Las Vegas incident has brought renewed calls for tougher gun regulations in the United States, but Americans are not convinced such laws would help reduce mass shootings. Forty-one percent of Americans say such laws would have a great deal of (21%) or moderate (20%) impact on these types of events. Effectively as many — 42% — say that new gun laws would have no effect on mass shootings, while 16% say new laws would reduce them a little.

Republicans and Democrats vary widely in their views on gun control laws, and the perceived effectiveness of new gun laws on reducing mass shootings is no different. Sixty-three percent of Democrats say such laws would have a great deal of or a moderate effect on reducing mass shootings, while 71% of Republicans say such laws would have no impact.

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