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Mood of the Nation Press Release

Old Main put out this news release to describe the features of the Mood Of The Nation Poll.

Jul 20, 2016

New Penn State Poll analyzes ‘Mood of the Nation’

McCourtney Institute researchers use open-ended questions to find Americans divided along party lines on Orlando shooting, gun control 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Democrats and Republicans reacted differently to the news of a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last month, according to a new “Mood of the Nation Poll” by Penn State’s McCourtney Institute for Democracy.  

The poll found that Democrats were more likely to be angry about the shooting then were Republicans; 42 percent of Democrats specifically mentioned the Orlando shooting when asked about what made them angry, compared to 27 percent of Republicans.

The new scientific poll posed a series of open-ended questions to a representative sample of 1,000 Americans between June 15 and June 22. Respondents were asked what in the news made them angry, ashamed, proud and hopeful.

While the subject of the Orlando shooting wasn’t included in the questions, researchers Michael Berkman, director of the McCourtney Institute, and Eric Plutzer, director of the McCourtney Mood of the Nation Poll, were not surprised that a majority of respondents had feelings of anger and pride related to the June 12 tragedy since it was still the subject of many news stories. 

Many Democrats who mentioned Orlando talked about the failure to better control guns, the political strength of the NRA, the intransigence of the Republican leadership to support greater regulation of guns and Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s response to the shooting. Republican respondents were angry at the media’s coverage of the event, at Democrat’s perceived efforts to use this tragedy to push for gun control and at the failure of both to focus on the fact that the shooter was a radical Muslim.

The poll highlighted positive emotions from respondents, too. Republicans tended to focus on individual acts of generosity and bravery, and the responses of businesses and churches, referencing first responders, blood donation drives and several mentions lauding Chik-fil-A for donating food. Independents and Democrats, in contrast, often mentioned support of the LGBT community specifically.

“It was the vision of George Gallup, and other pioneering pollsters, that scientific opinion polls would contribute to democracy by amplifying the ‘voice of the people,’” Plutzer said. “But traditional polling has always had two limitations: tendency to focus only on the ‘horse race’ and forcing citizens to place themselves into categories, even on issues about which they are uninformed or uninterested.

“Our poll addresses both of these issues by allowing citizens to answer a series of open-ended questions in their own words — this reveals what is on their minds, what is important to them and provides a unique window on politics today.”

Here are some example responses:

— A 27-year-old Democratic man from Pennsylvania wrote, “another mass shooting and NRA members standing in the way of sensible gun control,” while a 24-year-old Democratic man from Illinois wrote that he was very ashamed because “the mass killings in Orlando that should've been much more prevantable [sic] if not for republican politicians being bought by the NRA.”

— A 41-year-old Republican man from California said he was angry about the “Orlando shooting and law abiding people getting punished for it by liberals.” And many Republicans reflected the opinion of this 26-year-old Republican man from Iowa who wrote he was angry about the “media’s continued decision to ignore the fact he pledged his allegiance to ISIS.” 

— A 51-year-old Republican woman from California who said what made her angry was “Obama and Democrats blaming a terrorist attack on guns rather than fanatical or radical religious ideology.”

— A 49-year-old Independent man from Maryland said he was proud of the “Overwhelming Positive, and United Support of The LGBT Community after the Orlando Terrorist Attacks!” and a 62-year-old Democratic woman from Illinois said she was proud of how people “in the US and around the world” have “supported the LGBT community since the Orlando massacre.”