May 18, 2023 - Health

Axios-Ipsos poll: Gun violence soars as public health concern

What Americans say is the current greatest threat to U.S. public health
Data: Axios-Ipsos poll; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Gun violence has surged ahead of the opioid crisis as Americans' top public health concern, according to the latest edition of the Axios-Ipsos American Health Index.

Why it matters: A spate of recent mass shootings may have focused attention on the issue in ways that weren't apparent in our last poll in February.

What they found: 26% of respondents said "access to guns or firearms" is the No. 1 threat to American public health, up from 17% in February.

  • 25% said the biggest threat is opioids and fentanyl, virtually unchanged since the last poll.
  • 20% said obesity, also almost unchanged.
  • COVID-19 slipped to the bottom of public health threats at 3%, tied with smoking, alcohol abuse and unsafe driving.

Between the lines: Other recent polling has shown an uptick of concern about gun violence, especially in schools.

  • A KFF survey found 1 in 5 U.S. adults said they've personally been threatened with a gun, and 1 in 6 have personally witnessed someone being shot.
  • There's been an increased push to portray gun violence as a public health issue, with experts factoring employer costs, insurance claims, mental health counseling and other variables.
  • Former GOP Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist wrote earlier this month that "deaths from firearms has grown into an official public health crisis" and called for a "fresh look" at what should be done about it.

What they're saying: "With the ongoing drumbeat of tragic mass shootings, it should not be a surprise that access to guns has risen to be one of America's top public health concerns," said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted May 12-15 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,095 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.

Go deeper: Listen to the Axios Today podcast, where host Niala Boodhoo and Margaret Talev discuss what the Axios-Ipsos poll means for the American electorate ahead of 2024.

Go deeper