When do Americans think it is justified for a person to respond to a perceived threat with force?

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
April 26, 2023, 7:52 PM GMT+0

The latest poll by the Economist and YouGov finds that a majority of Americans — 61% — believe that the number of shootings in the U.S. has increased in the past month; 8% say it has decreased and 24% say it has stayed the same. Americans who are 65 and older are especially likely to believe shootings have increased: 78% say they have, compared to just 56% of adults under 65.

A series of publicized shootings in recent months have arisen from seemingly mundane situations: accidentally opening the door to the wrong car, knocking on the door to the wrong house, and pulling into someone else's driveway to turn around. Our poll asked Americans two questions about situations similar to each of these three scenarios: Would they personally feel threatened in that scenario and do they think use of force is justified?

While most people — 66% — say they would feel threatened when imagining a situation in which an unknown person unexpectedly opened the door of a car they were sitting in, half as many — 33% — say it would be justified to shoot the unknown person in this scenario. Fewer say they would feel threatened when imagining situations in which someone is knocking on the door to their home (23%) or pulling into the driveway of their home while turning around (23%). Nearly one in five (17% and 18%, respectively) say it would be justified to shoot someone in each of these two scenarios.

People who live in large cities are more likely than people who don't to say it would be justified to shoot someone knocking on your door or pulling into your driveway. Adults under 45 also are far more likely than older Americans to view shooting someone in these two scenarios as justified.

— Carl Bialik, Linley Sanders, and Kathy Frankovic contributed to this article

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on April 22 - 25, 2023 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to June 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (34% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Adobe Stock (feeling lucky)