Aug 13, 2019 - Economy

The mass shooting news cycle is still short-lived

Data: Google; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Google searches about the El Paso shooting surged more than any other recent mass shooting — but the horror, outrage and interest toward the murder of innocent lives never seems to last long enough to provoke much change.

Why it matters: Mass shootings have become more common, but fading public interest relieves pressure on lawmakers to address the underlying issues.

By the numbers: Google trends measures search interest on a scale of 0 to 100, with zero being the lowest amount of search interest possible and 100 being the most.

  • Search interest ranked higher than 5 out of 100 only lasted for two or three weeks for most shootings. Sandy Hook was an exception, with 10 non-consecutive weeks of Google interest higher than 5.

Key takeaways: The bigger shooting events are loosely correlated with more search interest. 

  • Search interest in the term "gun control" spiked close to shootings targeting schools with kids involved.
  • "I believe people think more action will be taken for gun control when children are the victims because their death strikes an even deeper emotional chord among the population," said Holly Schroth, a senior lecturer at the Haas School of Business who specializes in social psychology.

The big picture: 40% of Americans surveyed by Gallup this year said that they were "very dissatisfied" with the nation's gun laws — up from 21% in 2008.

  • Since 2009, the share of people who have said that gun sale laws should be more strict has risen from 44% to 60%.
  • Guns even became the top 2020 issue following the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohios, Axios found. But the fervor doesn't tend to last.

What to watch: Searches for "mass shooting" have been steadily growing beyond the spikes that immediately follow attacks.

Go deeper: The Trump news cycle of 2018 in one chart

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