University of Iowa students generally feel safe on campus, support the current weapons ban on campus and approve of the job UI campus police do to protect them, a new survey by a UI journalism class found.
The survey also showed support for restrictions on high-capacity ammunition clips and a semi-automatic weapons ban.
The survey is from a class taught by Stephen Berry, an associate professor of journalism and mass communication and IowaWatch co-founder, called Advanced Reporting and Writing: Polling Literacy and Public Affairs Journalism.
David W. Moore, former vice president of the Gallup Organization and a senior editor with the Gallup Poll for 13 years, assisted with the study.
The survey comes at a time when gun laws are being debated in Iowa and nationally. It polled 676 randomly selected students from the UI directory Feb. 26 through March 5 and was weighted to match the school’s demographics.
That was before UI graduate student Taleb Hussein Yousef Salameh, 28, died after reportedly shooting three officers off campus, in North Liberty, in a March 10 standoff. The shooting has increased attention on the UI’s ban on concealed weapons on campus.
Among those answering the poll’s questions, 54 percent indicated that they felt very safe on campus, while 43 percent said they felt somewhat safe. Less than 1 percent did not feel safe.
In the generally favorable reviews of the university’s police department, 20 percent of students rated its performance as very good and 37 percent rated it somewhat good. Less than 10 percent of those surveyed gave the police somewhat bad or very bad marks, 14 percent said they were neither good nor bad, and 19 percent did not know.
UI Director of Public Safety Chuck Green said that while there wasn’t a single driving factor behind the students’ sense of safety, programs for individuals such as Violent Incident Survival Training, Rape Aggression Defense, personal safety training, and physical defense training help people learn how to respond to dangerous situations.
Green declined to answer any gun-related questions.
Fifty-three percent of students responding opposed allowing concealed weapons on campus and said they would be upset if the current weapons ban on UI property were overturned. In comparison, only 16 percent believed that weapons should be allowed, and just 5 percent said they would be upset if the weapons ban remained in place. Even 42 percent of surveyed students who grew up in gun-owning families said they would be upset if the ban were overturned.
“The fewer guns there are (on campus), the less likely accidents are. I’d rather not take that chance,” liberal arts junior Oluwatoni Olayiwola said.
Cheryl Thomas, the communications coordinator of Iowans for Gun Safety, agreed, arguing that mixing the drinking culture of college towns with more guns is not the best way to keep students safe.
Aaron Dorr, the executive director of the Iowa Gun Owners organization, is a strong advocate for changing the current policy. “There’s no reason why college students should be helpless against a crazy attacker. If people are unarmed, they’re helpless,” he said.
Timothy Hagle, a political science professor at the UI, said a change is unlikely because the university tends to lean left politically, and control of the Iowa Legislature is split between Democrats and Republicans.
Opinions on allowing professors and instructors to keep weapons in classrooms were split more closely.
Twenty-seven percent of students said they would feel neither more nor less safe if faculty had guns in the classroom. A near equal 25 percent would feel much less safe, 20 percent would feel somewhat less safe, 19 percent would feel somewhat safer, and 7 percent would feel much safer.
UI Faculty Senate member Richard Fumerton, said the idea has not been brought up by faculty leaders and that he does not expect a strong push to change the policy.
The survey also revealed student support for restricting magazine clips with more than 10 rounds and banning semi-automatic firearms. Forty-one percent of students said they strongly supported the clip restriction and 22 percent somewhat supported it, while just 14 percent somewhat opposed the proposal and 13 percent strongly opposed it.
Thirty-one percent of students who self-identified as very conservative either somewhat or strongly favored the clip restriction, as did 45 percent of those who said they were somewhat conservative.
Students who favored a semi-automatic weapons ban outnumbered those who opposed it: 36 percent of students strongly favored the ban, 20 percent somewhat favored it, 15 percent somewhat opposed it, and 20 percent strongly opposed it.
The margin of error for the survey was 3.77 percentage points, with 23.9 percent of the nearly 3,000 students contacted completing it. Seventy-eight percent of the respondents participated in the survey online, while the remaining 22 percent answered the questions in phone interviews.