July 15, 2014

The demographics and politics of gun-owning households

FT_14.07.10_GunsAmericans with young children in their home are just as likely as other adults to have a gun in their household, according to newly released survey data from the Pew Research Center.

Overall, about a third of all Americans with children under 18 at home have a gun in their household, including  34% of families with children younger than 12. That’s nearly identical to the share of childless adults or those with older children who have a firearm at home.

The new research also suggests a paradox: While blacks are significantly more likely than whites to be gun homicide victims, blacks are only about half as likely as whites to have a firearm in their home (41% vs. 19%). Hispanics are less likely than blacks to be gun homicide victims and half as likely as whites to have a gun at home (20%).

To examine the demographic and political characteristics of gun-owners and their households, we examined data from the new Pew Research Center American Trends Panel survey of 3,243 adults conducted April 29-May 27, including 1,196 who said they or someone in their household owned a gun, pistol or rifle.

All respondents in the nationally representative panel had been interviewed in an earlier Pew Research poll and agreed to participate in future surveys. Margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points and plus or minus 3.7 percentage points for results based only on those in gun-owning households.

The survey results also would appear to challenge the conventional wisdom that gun ownership is far more prevalent in the South. According to the survey, southerners are just about as likely as those living in the Midwest or the West to have a gun at home (38% vs. 35% and 34%, respectively). The regional exception: Households in the northeastern United States, where gun prevalence is significantly lower (27%) than in other parts of the country.

But regional differences emerge when race is factored into the analysis. White southerners are significantly more likely to have a gun at home (47%) than whites in other regions. But because blacks disproportionately live in the South and are only half as likely to have a gun at home as whites, the overall rate for the southern region falls to 38%.

Other longstanding beliefs about the makeup of America’s gun-owning households are confirmed by these data. For example, rural residents and older adults are disproportionately more likely than other Americans to have a gun at home.

Americans with a gun at home also differ politically from other adults. Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to be members of a gun-owning household. Political independents also are more likely than Democrats to have a firearm in their homes.

As a group, Americans who have a gun at home see themselves differently than do other adults. According to the survey, adults in gun-owning households are more likely to think of themselves as an “outdoor person” (68% vs. 51%) or “a typical American” (72% vs. 62%), and to say “honor and duty are my core values” (59% vs. 48%).

About six-in-ten gun household members (64%) say they “often feel proud to be American.” In contrast, about half (51%) of other adults say this.

Not surprisingly, members of gun-owning households are more than twice as likely to identify themselves as a “hunter, fisher or sportsman” (37% vs. 16%).

But on other dimensions tested in the survey, those with a gun at home differ little from other Americans. For example, they are as focused on health and fitness as those in non-gun owning households and are about equally likely to say they think of themselves as compassionate or as a trusting person.

Topics: Gun Control

  1. Photo of Rich Morin

    is Senior Editor at the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project.

Leave a Comment

Or

All comments must follow the Pew Research comment policy and will be moderated before posting.

40 Comments

  1. Brian3 months ago

    What is presented as a “paradox” should be common sense. In areas where it is common knowledge that gun ownership is high, criminals are less likely to break into home and kill potentially gun-wielding victims.

    Put another way, people who are most capable of defending themselves do defend themselves, and live to talk about it.

    Reply
    1. Rfree5 hours ago

      whites are less likely to be shot by someone else, but far more likely to shoot themselves. sadly, white gun suicides way more than offset the claimed “self-protection”. and no, white people who commit gun suicide usually do not live to tell about it….

      Reply
  2. Richard Snow5 months ago

    In our neck of the woods a gun is a tool, not much different from a hammer or a chainsaw. A few years back it was used to ventilate 55 gallon steel drums for use as a burning barrel. They tend to be plastic now so that’s out. We still need to dispatch an occasional rabid wild animal but generally it just sits on the gun rack until it’s needed.

    Reply
  3. 2brknot2b5 months ago

    Tells me if whites own more guns, and have less chance of being murdered, perhaps there is some correlation between ownership of guns, and death rates. Would shoot holes in Bloomberg’s various organizations, Brady Campaign, AAGV, and other anti-gun, people control organizations. If they are trying to disarm everyone, that would basically mean they are trying to disarm white folk shot at disproportionally lower rates, but with much higher rates of gun ownership, so as to bring up the homicide rate in white communities. Sounds like a leftist propelled genocide to me. Doesn’t it to you?

    Reply
    1. Scott5 months ago

      OK, here’s two items that shoot a hole in that idea: motherjones.com/politics/2013/01…

      amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(13…

      To summarize their findings: more guns equals more firearm related fatalities and gun ownership increases your likelihood of being the firearm fatality statistic.

      Reply
      1. Lynchmtn2 months ago

        …however, Scott, the data also show that in areas with more private gun ownership, the overall rate of murder by all means collectively (e.g., knives, hammers, baseball bats, et.al., is significantly lower. And as a career researcher, I can tell you that the difference is statistically significant with a substantial edge. And if you go one step further and include non-death crimes (e.g., robbery, car-jacking, etc.) the margin is even more dramatic.
        So, here are the basics: More gun ownership results in fewer per capita murders. You’re just as dead by a baseball bat as you would be by a gun.
        How uber-liberals continue to ignore these facts just boggles the mind.

        Reply
        1. rfree5 hours ago

          as a career researcher, I recommend you do a little more research. about 90% of violent gun deaths by the generally more conservative white adults who own guns is…killing themselves with the gun. 75% of liberals choose not to have a gun because they know that having a gun in the house greatly increases the chance of accidental or deliberate harm of someone who lives in the house, and this more than offsets the claimed self-protection benefit for most people. see: medicalxpress.com/news/2014-12-f…

          gun ownership rates in states are partially correlated to gun murder, but have an excellent correlation with rates of gun deaths from all causes (suicide, homocide, and accident). only focusing on murder somewhat obscures what is really going on with guns in regard to personal safety and preservation of life.

          Reply
  4. Richard Tebaldi5 months ago

    Please note, the largest group by age are the older generation of Americans. Usually the major taxpayers and supporters of America. Take a look at how our Federal Government takes care of America, refusing to protect it’s borders. Take a look at crime during this recession which you say was over in 2009, and is not because the poll is skewed. You aren’t counting, because you can’t define, the numbers of lost jobs and the people who have used up all their benefits, and are no longer in the job market. Many probably retiring and getting an under the table job. How many non taxpayers on the books? Truly, i believe many of the job seekers are poorly trained to get a job.
    Others lost their jobs to a “Global market” that we can’t sustain due to cheating by other countries, possibly by us as well. Our “older generation” does not feel safe anymore and many of us are not able to protect our families anymore. That’s why we have guns. The Government is too large to protect us, even locally. Criminals have undocumented guns. People who are trained combatants have guns because they know and have seen evil. Ban guns and you’ll have undocumented under the table guns everywhere. What are you saying to the gun totting criminal? “Hey, break into my house! My State won’t allow me to have a gun”! (And the police can’t get here for “X” minutes!

    Reply
  5. Robert Schweitzer5 months ago

    It seems that everything many people know about guns, the learned by watching TV. Furthermore, TV sensationalizes the misuse of guns.

    We have driver ed classes to teach proper driving. We have home ec and shop classes to improve home environments. Maybe its time our education included proper use, care, and capabilities of guns since ownership and possession is guaranteed by our constitution.

    Reply
    1. Scott5 months ago

      That…would be encouraging gun ownership, much like requiring schools to teach the Bible. Those should be (ant are constitutionally) options left to the individual. Now, it might, in fact does, make more sense to require any individual wishing to own a gun to undergo “x” number of classroom hours for certification, with a re-certification required every “x” number of years, much like receiving and keeping a driver’s license. This should appease gun owners groups since they often compare guns to cars.

      Reply
      1. Chad Lariviere5 months ago

        No Scott, that would be preparing people to make choices intelligently or at least with an INFORMED opinion. No one is saying we should make people like guns. But educating them about guns FACTS as far as how they work, i.e. semi-auto vs. full auto, might go a long way to having people back EFFECTIVE legislation rather than laws that sounds good but have no positive effect on gun violence.

        Reply
      2. John Doe2 months ago

        Yet evolution is forced down our throat in public schools…. Its a double standard for you liberals

        Reply
  6. Just a Guy5 months ago

    Stop with the hispanic thing. As a white latin american living in his own country I find it very disturbing that in the US you continuously separate people that speak Spanish from the other races. Don´t perpetuate this. We belong to all races regardless of the language we speak and it makes absolutely no sense including a language/cultural classification inside an race/ethnic category, as much as if you were including francophones or germanophones there.

    Reply
    1. slk5 months ago

      back in the 70’s, there was no hispanic check box!!!

      Reply
      1. Scott5 months ago

        And next you’re going to say…”those were the good ole days”?

        Reply
    2. 2brknot2b5 months ago

      The left (progressives on both sides of the aisle) must divide to conquer. People who fall for the tripe are ignorant boobs. From my cold dead hands.

      Reply
    3. Stretch5 months ago

      Just a guy . . . I couldn’t agree with your comment more. I am a WASP that reminds friends that a vast part of this nation in the Southwest was Hispanic long before it was part of America. I regret that my generation was not exposed to other languages at an early age so that we could easily communicate with each other. When we travel abroad, I always feel like the dumb “American.” Fortunately, the French, Spanish, Italians, Mexicans, Germans and others I’ve met are nice enough to speak my language and help me with theirs. And I’m always amazed at those from the continent who forget that the people of the U.S. Virginia Islands and Porto Rica have the same rights as American citizens they do. Gracious, Amigo!!

      Reply
  7. Tom Skoch5 months ago

    “The new research also suggests a paradox: While blacks are significantly more likely than whites to be gun homicide victims, blacks are only about half as likely as whites to have a firearm in their home (41% vs. 19%). Hispanics are less likely than blacks to be gun homicide victims and half as likely as whites to have a gun at home (20%).”

    Not really a paradox:

    1. Gun-related homicide is most prevalent among gangs and during the commission of felony crimes. (nij.gov/topics/crime/gun-violenc…)

    2. The 1996 National Youth Gang Survey revealed that Hispanics and African-Americans constituted the majority of gang members. (ojjdp.gov/pubs/96natyouthgangsrv…)

    So, it seems black and Hispanic households are more likely to contain gang members who become gun homicide victims and have weapons the Pew household survey respondents don’t even know about.

    Reply
    1. Donald Steiny5 months ago

      It does not require secret weapons. A small minority of both communities are involved in the gun violence but that is enough to make a difference in the overall rates. Note that people shooting each other in arguments is almost the same level.

      Reply
    2. Richard Tebaldi5 months ago

      Tom: Do you mean a “legal weapon”?

      Reply
      1. 2brknot2b5 months ago

        What is the difference between a legal weapon, and an illegal weapon when the Constitution states “…the right of the people to keep & bear arms shall not be infringed”? If one cannot adopt law, or policy to deny gun ownership of any lawful combatant (military personnel), then one cannot outlaw various weapons, weapon types, or limit capacity, such as with magazines, or how many magazines one may carry. In other words, the only illegal gun is a gun owned by someone in a country not covered by a second amendment, and that right exists for them, too, they just haven’t codified it in their laws/constitution.

        Reply
        1. gatlingun64 months ago

          Unfortunately for you no court has opined that the 2nd Amendment contains an unfettered right, nor does it speak to when, where and how an arm can be carried. In the MacDonald case SCOTUS concluded that some regulations are permitted.

          IMHO with the recent cases, the 5 conservative justices have made a mess of the 2nd A. Be that as it may, no subsequent is going to overturn the SCOTUS decisions on the 2 most recent cases.

          In the joy surrounding the SCOTUS recent gun rights decision they did something else of which the impact was not noticed. For the 1st time SCOTUS was explicit that the 2nd A is held against the states. Essentially that means that Federal not State courts will decide what regulations are permissible. How did SCOTUS say it? “Reasonable regulations are permissible”. They did not; however, define “reasonable”.

          If you think the 2nd A is all about an unfettered right, feel free to bring suit.

          Reply
  8. Doug5 months ago

    Would be really interested in the methodology. Is it the case that respondents were asked to volunteer if they have a firearm in the home? How did your researchers try to validate responses and do you allow for the fact that many respondents may not volunteer that they have illegal weapons? By and large, the majority of criminal shootings are perpetrated by, well, criminals. Are they going to tell you the truth?

    Reply
    1. Yes, curious indeed5 months ago

      What’s more, how likely are “ex-offenders” or *current* offenders to agree to participate in recurring Pew polls?! Much less answer truthfully about gun ownership—tantamount to confessing a felony over the phone to a stranger in a poll where the pollster knows, or can likely determine with some ease, who you are?!! Gun owners in higher crime areas (i.e., urban)—whether they are lawful owners or not—know that revealing the presence of firearms in the home to strangers *can* increase their risk of burglary, all else equal.

      It is almost certain this sample badly undercounts the prevalence of gun ownership among blacks in particular and felons, especially, as well as city-dwellers in general. I invite Pew to ask respondents next time if there is a felon or ex-offender living in the household. See how that works out.

      Reply
    2. Donald Steiny5 months ago

      They have a link to the survey where they explain their methodology in great detail. In addition Pew makes their data sets available so you can check the statistical analysis if you care to.

      Reply
      1. 2brknot2b5 months ago

        Pew polls stink. Pun intended.

        Reply
    3. Scott5 months ago

      So, are you suggesting we shouldn’t attempt to collect…any data? Too your point though, accuracy on any poll of this nature would increase if “owning a gun” were more regulated for all. The fewer the regulations, the less accurately the data is compiled.

      Reply
      1. 2brknot2b5 months ago

        Actually, if our rights were not being diminished unconstitutionally, and illegally, or illegitimately, by congress, or state congresses, people would be more likely to be open, and truthful. Your hypothesis that legislation/regulation will make people, especially consummate liars (Barack Hussein Obama types), and criminals, more open is simply preposterous.

        Reply
        1. gatlingun64 months ago

          And your presumption that the President is a consummate liar is also preposterous. That line is nothing more than your opinion without a shred of evidence to back it up. I’m surprised that you only gave one of the anti-President Obama talking points.

          But I’m not surprised because your many comments are all about opinions in which case you’re entitled to keep them.

          One would have thought that your opinions, as strong as they are, would be supported by something, anything factual. Unfortunately there is nothing but air there.

          Reply
  9. JohnKerrysForehead5 months ago

    Could the lower % of ownership in the Northeast be a result of stricter gun laws coupled with population density?

    Reply
    1. LinvilleLion5 months ago

      And as a result will not admit to having a firearm.

      Reply
    2. Donald Steiny5 months ago

      Also, the more educated and financially well off people are the less likely they are to have guns. Where I live people generally think owning a gun is absurd. Better educated people go to cities and make more money.

      Reply
      1. Old Dragoon5 months ago

        Of course, once one reaches a certain stage of affluence, one hires a gun for personal/neighborhood protection.

        Reply
      2. 2brknot2b5 months ago

        My better educated daughter owns several guns, lives inner city, and doesn’t consider gun ownership an evil. Of course, she was taught by a college educated country boy how to live right, be morally straight, and keep her nose clean.

        Reply
      3. That guy2 months ago

        Do you feel better about yourself looking down your nose and thinking how you’re so much better than the rest of us .
        Sorry sparky but guns have nothing to do with Brains/Education or income .

        Reply
      4. Lynchmtn2 months ago

        Donny boy…,
        We would never encourage you to change your position on this. Even those of us who comprehend the critical importance of the 2nd amendment also understand that there are those people who are better of not trying to handle firearms personally. As luck would have it, this is a self-regulating phenomenon, i.e.: Those who are better off not trying to handle them due to certain deficiencies (wink, wink!), also tend to be the same people who can’t wrap their brains around why firearms in private hands are so important for self-preservation. So the Darwinian natural selection process is allowed to play out. It all operates in service of the evolution of our species. See: It’s all good Don. So stick to your “guns” on this! (possibly the worst pun I’ve ever used).

        Reply
  10. Daniel Haas5 months ago

    I have always seen a correlation between population density and gun ownership. Isn’t it true that the more urban you live the fewer guns you have around? Frontier-life on the other hand brings a higher rate of gun ownership…

    Reply
  11. Ted5 months ago

    PEW should research and reveal the ideological and political leanings of all the recent mass murder perpetrators. The headliners all appear to be leftists

    Reply
    1. JohnKerrysForehead5 months ago

      Agreed. That would be interesting.

      Reply
    2. Scott5 months ago

      And you are basing this on…what? I see the headliners as right wing extremists. So…who is correct?

      Reply