N.C. State students were asked about gun control and gun-related issues in the 2013 Spring Pack Poll. The survey was conducted between February 20–25, and over 900 students took part in it.
Assault Weapons Ban
When asked if they “support or oppose banning the sale of assault weapons,” N.C. State students were more likely to oppose it (55%) than to support it (45%). A recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows N.C. voters are at odds with State students on the issue. According to PPP, 50% of NC voters would support an assault weapons ban while just 41% opposed it. This isn’t the first time N.C. State students disagreed with the N.C. electorate. In 2012, the Pack Poll found that N.C. State students overwhelmingly opposed N.C. Amendment 1, which passed with ease during the 2012 primary.
Banning Versus “Buying”
Some students, though, were asked a slightly different version of the question about assault weapons. Roughly half of the sample was randomly assigned to read a question that asked instead of banning, “Do you support or oppose being able to buy assault weapons?” We changed the normal wording of the question to reflect a logically equivalent but opposite behavior (banning versus buying).
The word “ban,” which is commonly used by most survey firms, seems to slightly affect the opinions of respondents. The Pack Poll finds that support for eradicating the sale of assault weapons rises slightly when “buying” is used. Now, 49% say they oppose people being able to buy assault weapons. The size of the increase in opposition (4%), though, is statistically insignificant, but the direction of the effect suggests more attention to language in question wording is warranted. Our finding could mean that forceful words such as “ban” actually deter some people from supporting concepts they otherwise might be in favor of.
K-12 Schools and Guns
Some of the most intriguing results are about students’ preferences for possibly arming teachers and principals in K-12 schools. A sizable majority of students support allowing school principals access to a firearm in case of and emergency at the school (68%). Support drops, though, when instead of asking about “principals” the question asks about “teachers.” Only a slim majority (52%) supports allowing teachers access to guns.
Concealed Carry Correlated with Gender, Polarized with Age
As State students matriculate from Frosh to Seniors, their opinions about allowing other students aged 21 and older to carry concealed weapons on campus become more polarized. Among freshman, 41% have a “strongly” held belief, one way or another (support or oppose concealed carry on campus). Among seniors, 53% have a “strongly” held belief. In addition, seniors are more likely to support concealed carry on campus than any other grade level; 42% support this idea. Conversely, freshmen were the most opposed to concealed carry, with only 31% in favor of it.
Gender is also important for understanding attitudes this issue. Roughly half of male respondents feel the same way.
A previous survey conducted by the Pack Poll in January found similar results about concealed carry policies. Not surprisingly that survey showed that allowing concealed guns on campus was very unpopular among Democrats (18%), women (33%), and non-gun owners (26%), but was more popular among men (48%), Republicans (62%) and gun owners (52%). *Note: the percentages reflect those in favor of allowing concealed weapons to be carried by N.C. State students aged 21 and older.
Independents Split Issue by Issue, Swayed by Question Wording
Those who call themselves political Independents were often influenced by changes in how the gun questions were asked. For example, only 42% of independents said they supported an assault weapons ban. However, when asked if they would support being able to buy assault weapons, 55% oppose assault weapons purchases. Furthermore, a clear majority of independents (78%) would grant K-12 principals access to a gun in case of emergency, but just 48% of them would grant teachers access to guns. Independents also oppose concealed carry on campus (64%).
The survey was conducted between February 20–25, and conducted online using Qualtrics survey software. Every undergraduate had an equal probability of being invited to take the survey. This was accomplished by drawing a random sample of 4,000 students’ emails. These students were then sent an email inviting them to take part in the Pack Poll.
A total of 963 undergraduate students started the survey, and 923 completed it. The response rate for starting the survey is 24% and 23% for completing it. The margin of sampling error is +/-3.1% for questions with the maximum response rate, but increases for questions in which the response rate is lower. For example, in split-ballot questions, the number of respondents answering each question is cut roughly in half, raising the margin of sampling error to about +/-4.4% for those questions.