What Americans think about hate crimes, discrimination, and guns

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
December 02, 2022, 10:04 PM GMT+0

According to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, 56% of Americans believe hate crimes have risen in the U.S. relative to 10 years ago. A mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs a week before the fielding of our poll may have contributed to that perception: 55% describe the shooting as a hate crime and 73% who believe hate crimes are up since 2012 describe it that way. Conversely, 75% who describe the shooting as a hate crime say hate crimes are up in the past decade, compared to 34% among those who don't.

The Colorado Springs shooting also prompted recognition in some news media reports of discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. In our latest poll, more say transgender people face a “great deal” of discrimination than say that about any other group asked about. Just about as many say people who are lesbian, gay, and bisexual face a great deal of discrimination as say the same about Black people or Muslims.

There is a partisan divide: Half of Democrats say lesbians, gays, and bisexuals face a great deal of discrimination and nearly two-thirds say transgender people do. Far fewer Republicans say the same about either group.

Republican opinions on the extent of discrimination against various groups are also divided according to whether or not they identify as a MAGA Republican. Non-MAGA Republicans are most likely to say LGBT Americans face a great deal of discrimination, among the groups polled about; roughly as many say Christians do. Where MAGA Republicans differ is in the greater shares — relative to non-MAGA Republicans — who think white people, men, or Christians face a great deal of discrimination, and the smaller shares who say the same about LGBT Americans.

Recent mass shootings in Colorado and Virginia have sparked calls by some for stricter gun control laws. Majorities of Americans favor certain gun restrictions, including universal background checks (72% favor this), five-day waiting periods for handgun purchases (65%), red flag laws (62%), or a ban on the sale of magazine clips holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition (54%). Around half of Americans also support banning semi-automatic weapons (50%) or allowing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct research on gun violence (47%). The only measure asked about that is opposed (55%) by more Americans than favor it (26%) is a ban on the sale of any handguns besides the ones issued to law enforcement officers.

As we've found in the past, Democrats and Republicans have vastly different views about placing restrictions on guns in the U.S. But that doesn't mean members of each party are united in their beliefs on the issue. Republicans who identify as MAGA are far less supportive of most gun control measures asked about than are Republicans who don't identify as MAGA. On background checks, waiting periods, and red flag laws, the opinions of non-MAGA Republicans more closely resemble the opinions of Democrats than of MAGA Republicans.

– Carl Bialik contributed to this article

Polling by the Economist/YouGov was conducted on November 26 - 29, 2022 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this Economist/YouGov poll on discrimination and guns.

Image: Getty (Chet Strange)