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SLU/YouGov Poll: Bipartisan Support for School Safety and Gun Reforms

Media Inquiries

Maggie Rotermund
Senior Media Relations Specialist

Reserved for members of the media.

Voters support constitutional amendment initiative reform but less favorable to sports betting

The February 2023 SLU/YouGov Poll interviewed 900 likely Missouri voters about issues facing the Missouri legislature and their opinions about school safety and guns, following the October school shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School. The survey found that 56% of voters reported they were somewhat or very worried about a shooting happening at Missouri schools, and there is bipartisan support for safety and gun reforms. 

Key School Safety and Gun Reform Findings

Key Missouri Political Findings

The margin of error for the full sample of the survey is ± 3.72%.

Missouri Political Figures

Only 40% of Missouri voters agreed with the statement that Missouri is on the right track (MoE ± 5.50%), and 78% rated the Missouri state economy as “Fair” or “Poor.” Despite these pessimistic views of the state, Missouri voters are happy with the governor and state legislature. 

Governor Mike Parson remains the most popular Missouri political figure asked about in the SLU/YouGov Poll. Fifty percent of voters approve of the Governor’s performance, and 43% disapprove. 51 percent of Missouri voters approve of the Missouri state legislature’s performance (MoE ± 5.50%), which is the legislature’s highest approval rating in the history of the SLU/YouGov poll. 

“Missouri voters are unhappy with the direction of the state,” said Steven Rogers, Ph.D., director of the Saint Louis University/YouGov poll and an associate professor of political science at Saint Louis University. “However, tides appear to be turning as 7% more Missourians think the state is on the right track than they did in August 2022.”

Federal political figures were less popular than Parson or the state legislature. Thirty-six percent of voters approved of President Biden’s performance, and 62% disapproved.

“This relatively low approval score is driven largely by the extremely low percentage of likely Missouri Republican voters approving of Biden’s job performance,” said Ken Warren, Ph.D., associate director of the SLU/YouGov Poll and a professor of political science at SLU. “While 87% of Missouri’s Democrats approved of Biden’s job performance, only 2% of Missouri’s Republicans did.”

Both Republicans and Democrats disapprove of the U.S. Congress’s performance, but Republican voters are more favorable towards Congress since the Republican Party took control of the U.S. House. In August 2022, when Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate, 87% of Republicans disapproved of Congress’s performance. However, in February 2023, only 61% of Republicans disapproved of Congress’s performance.

Forty-four percent of voters approve of newly elected U.S. Senator Eric Schmitt, and only 35% disapprove. Twenty-one percent of voters stated they were “not sure,” reflecting that many voters are still forming an opinion of Schmitt, who took office in January. Voters’ opinions of Sen. Josh Hawley are slightly improved compared to the results of the August 2022 SLU/YouGov Poll.  In  August, 46% of voters approved of Hawley’s performance, and in February, 47% approved.

School Safety and Guns

Following the October school shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis, addressing school safety and guns in Missouri has received greater attention. The SLU/YouGov Poll found that 49% of Missouri voters rated “safety at public schools across Missouri” as fair or poor, and 56% of voters reported they were somewhat or very worried about a shooting happening at Missouri schools. 

To address school safety, most Missouri Democratic and Republican voters supported requiring schools to have metal detectors, security cameras, and police officers on campus. Sixty-seven percent of voters also supported requiring visitors to schools to receive pre-approval from the school before visiting, and 48% of voters supported allowing teachers are school administrators to carry guns in schools.

“These results suggest school safety is on the minds of many Missourians. Findings indicate bi-partisan support for several school safety measures,” said Ashley Donaldson Burle, chief of operations and a research fellow at Saint Louis University’s PRiME Center. “However, voters are more divided or unsure on controversial measures such as allowing teachers and school administrators to carry guns.” 

Thirty-seven percent and 26% of voters also reported they were somewhat or very worried about the possibility of a shooting at their grocery store or place of worship. To increase safety, Missouri voters do not favor banning guns but favor gun control reforms. Ten percent or fewer voters support banning all guns, handguns, or hunting rifles, and 40% or fewer voters support banning semi-automatic weapons or semi-automatic weapon magazine clips. However, at least 60% of voters favored criminal background checks, mental health background checks, a 21-year-old age requirement, and a 72-hour waiting period before a Missourian could purchase a gun. Sixty percent of voters favored instituting red flag laws.

“These results indicate that even though overwhelming majorities of Missouri voters believe in their right to own a gun, both Democrats and Republicans want stricter gun laws in Missouri,” said Rogers. “Such results are similar to abortion findings from our August poll, where at least 75% of Missouri voters favored legalized abortion in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life was in danger.”

Sports Betting

The Missouri state legislature continues its debate about whether to legalize sports betting in Missouri. When asked if betting on collegiate and professional sports should be legal in Missouri, 35% of Missouri voters agreed, and 41% disagreed (MoE ± 5.50%). Older voters and voters in rural areas favor legalizing sports betting less. Only 23% of voters aged 65 or older agreed that betting on collegiate and professional sports should be legal in Missouri, but 51% of voters aged 18-29 agreed. Twenty-four percent of rural voters agreed that betting should be legal. Meanwhile, 34% of urban and 43% of suburban voters agreed. 

“When you hear state lawmakers and the media talk about legalizing sports betting in Missouri, the debate often focuses on how high taxes will be or video lottery machines and presumes that voters favor sports betting,” said Rogers. “Findings from our survey, however, indicate that support for legalized sports betting is weaker than presumed.”

Constitutional Amendment Reform 

Missouri state constitutional amendments have recently expanded Medicaid, raised the minimum wage, and legalized recreational marijuana use. Republican state lawmakers want to make amending the constitution via an initiative more difficult, changing signature requirements and the threshold of voter support to approve an amendment. When asked by the SLU/YouGov Poll, only 13% of Missourians indicated the current threshold of 50% of voters should be required to amend the constitution. Meanwhile, 22% of voters indicated that 60% of support should be required, and 33% of voters favored requiring support to be at least 66% (MoE ± 5.17%). Together, 55% of voters support raising the threshold of voter support for a state constitutional amendment to at least 60%.

“Such findings are encouraging for supporters of constitutional amendment reform,” said Rogers. “Voters will have to approve whether to change the amendment process. When it comes to the voter threshold, a majority of voters appear to support at least this aspect of reform.”

Education and Childcare Reforms

When asked what the top priority of the Missouri state government should be, 44% of voters stated the economy, which is 7% lower than that found in the August 2022 SLU/YouGov Poll. For the first time in the history of the SLU/YouGov Poll, education was the second highest-rated important issue, with 18% of voters saying it was the most important issue. However, 69% of voters also rated Missouri public schools as “fair” or “poor.” 

“The findings indicate education has become an increasingly important issue to Missouri voters,” said Burle. “Voter dissatisfaction with the condition of Missouri public schools remains strong, similar to the results in the August 2022 SLU/YouGov Poll.”  

Reflecting voters’ dissatisfaction with some schools, 62% of voters agreed with the statement, “Parents of students should have the right to object to instructional materials used in their child’s classroom.” 26% disagreed (MoE ± 5.50%). 46% of voters also oppose a permanent reduction from a five to a four-day school week, while 34% favored this reform.

Many parents struggle to find affordable childcare, and the Missouri state legislature is considering at least two programs to address these concerns. The Employer-Provided Childcare Assistance Tax Credit Act would provide benefits to employers who offer childcare assistance to their employees. The Child Care Providers Tax Credit Act would assist childcare providers with overhead costs like payroll and facility upkeep. 

Missouri voters support parts of each of these programs. Sixty-four percent of voters favored a policy where “Employers who provide childcare assistance should receive a state tax credit for 30 percent of expense paid to the childcare facility,” and only 13% opposed (MoE ± 5.17%). 41 percent of voters favored a policy where “Childcare providers with at least three employees may claim state credit equal to their employers withholding tax and 30% of their capital expenditures.”  Twelve percent opposed this policy, and 48% of voters were “Not sure” (MoE ± 5.37%).

Methodology and Funding

YouGov interviewed 900 likely Missouri voters between Feb. 8-14, 2023. The YouGov panel, a proprietary opt-in survey panel, is comprised of 3.1 million United States residents who have agreed to participate in YouGov Web surveys. Using their gender, age, race, and education, YouGov weighted the set of survey respondents to known characteristics of Missouri voters from the American Community Survey (ACS) public use microdata file, public voter file records, the 2020 Current Population Survey (CPS) Voting and Registration supplements, the 2020 National Election Pool (NEP) exit poll, and the 2020 CES surveys, including demographics and 2020 presidential vote. The margin of error for the weighted data is 3.72%. Reduced samples of voters answered some questions, and the margins of error for these questions are indicated above. 

The SLU/YouGov Poll is funded by the PRiME Center in SLU’s School of Education and the Saint Louis University Research Institute Big Ideas competition, which provides funding to research initiatives that demonstrate broad faculty engagement, strong leadership and compelling research plans.

About YouGov

Saint Louis University has partnered with YouGov to conduct its annual survey of Missouri voters. YouGov conducts surveys for multiple academic institutions and is the primary, trusted survey firm for media organizations, including CBS News and The Economist. An independent Pew Research Center study of online survey firms in 2016 further concluded that YouGov “consistently outperforms competitors.”

About Saint Louis University

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers more than 15,200 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.