March 28, 2023


America’s most comprehensive poll of Gen Z also finds strong correlation between feelings of depression, fear, and concern about mass shootings

Cambridge, Mass. -- A national poll of America’s 18-to-29-year-olds conducted between March 13 and March 23, 2023 by the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School indicates that more than three-in-five (63%) believe our gun laws should be stricter -- including a majority of young people in college and not in college; a majority of young white, Black, Hispanic and Asian-Americans; a majority of males and females; and a majority of those living in urban areas, suburbs, and small towns.  
This response about gun laws tracks results from the Harvard Youth Poll release in spring 2018, in the days following the Parkland shooting. In that survey, 64% believed our gun laws should be stricter. 

For over twenty years, the Harvard Public Opinion Project has provided the most comprehensive look at the political opinions and voting trends held by Gen Z and Millennials. The Spring 2023 Harvard Youth Poll, written by Harvard undergraduate students, surveyed 2,069 young Americans between 18- and 29-years-old and was conducted between March 13 and March 23, 2023. Full findings of the Harvard Youth Poll will be released in April.

"It doesn't matter you whether live in a big city or small town, whether you're a college student or not -- young Americans are demanding stricter gun laws as they see millions of their friends living in fear and wondering whether they or someone they love will be the next victim,” said John Della Volpe, Institute of Politics polling director and author of FIGHT: How Gen Z is Channeling Their Fear and Passion to Save America.

“From Parkland to Uvalde to the shooting yesterday in Nashville, young Americans have consistently demanded stricter gun laws,” said Ethan Jasny ’25, student chair of the Harvard Public Opinion Project (HPOP). “Even when mass shootings aren’t in the news, the threat of gun violence hangs over my generation, provoking anxiety for those who are already suffering most from the mental health crisis.”

“As a former mayor and as a veteran, I’ve spent years engaged in political debates about what can be done to stop gun violence, while more young people continue to die year after year," said Setti Warren, Director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School. “The Harvard Youth Poll states loud and clear that for young Americans, the debate over gun safety laws is over. Gen Z is demanding action, and elected officials should listen.”

Other top findings of this portion of the survey include the following:  

  • Seventy-three percent (73%) support (including 51% strongly support) laws that require "psychological exams for all gun purchases,” including 88% of young Democrats, 59% of Republicans, and 71% of Americans who are independent, or unaffiliated with a major party. 
  • Fifty-eight percent (58%) of young Americans support a ban on assault weapons -- again, including at least 50% of almost every major demographic group analyzed in the survey. These attitudes are largely unchanged since spring 2018, when 61% felt the same way immediately after Parkland.

As the HPOP research team continues to focus on youth mental health, and the factors contributing to depression, anxiety, and loneliness -- the team found:

  • Nearly half (47%) of young Americans indicate that at least several days in the last two weeks, they suffered from “feeling down, depressed, or hopeless.” 
  • Forty-one percent (41%) of young Americans describe persistent feelings of being “afraid, as if something awful might happen.” Young people in college (45%), and those not in college (43%) describe this in roughly the same proportions.
  • One-third (33%) of all young adults under 30 specifically say that they are “worried about a potential mass shooting when in a public space (such as school/university, mall, office, theater, etc.)” at least several days in the last two weeks. Among those who indicate signs of depression, this number rises to 51%; and for those who describe feelings of fear, it is 57%. 
  • And when young Americans were asked if they were concerned about someone close to them being a victim of crime: 36% were concerned about gun violence, 35% of a mass shooting, 35% robbery or theft, 28% sexual assault, 23% a hate crime, and 17% police brutality. Thirty-seven percent (37%) were not concerned about any of these crimes.


This poll of 2,069 18-to-29-year-olds was organized with undergraduate students from the Harvard Public Opinion Project (HPOP) and supervised by John Della Volpe, IOP Director of Polling. Data were collected by Ipsos Public Affairs using the KnowledgePanel Calibration approach. In this approach, the calibrating sample was provided by the KnowledgePanel probability-based sample source (n=1,033), while the sample to be calibrated was provided by non-probability, opt-in web panel sample sources (n=1,036). Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish between March 13 and March 23, 2023. The target population for this survey is US residents between the ages of 18 and 29. Data are weighted to reflect population estimates based on age-group, race, Hispanic ethnicity, educational attainment, household income, urbanicity, and geographic region of residence.  The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 2.86%.