Poll: Parents most responsible when kids play violent video games

Monday, November 1, 2010

WASHINGTON — Parents should be most responsible for determining whether minors can buy or rent violent video games, according to a new, nationwide survey conducted for the nonpartisan First Amendment Center.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association Nov. 2 over a California law that prohibits the sale or rental to anyone under 18 of games that portray the fictional “killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being.”

“The survey results show a clear majority of Americans see parents having the most responsibility for deciding whether violent videos games ought to be purchased or rented by children, with a smaller but sizeable majority also approving a government ban,” said Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director of the first Amendment Center.

The survey, conducted Oct. 29-30 by Gallup, asked how much responsibility parents, video-game manufacturers, government, or retail or online stores should have for deciding whether children may buy or rent such games. The survey found:

  • 86% said parents should have a “great deal” of responsibility, the highest result on the question, with just 4% saying they should have no responsibility.
  • 43% said video-game manufacturers and retail or online stores should have a “great deal” of responsibility, with less than 20% saying the groups should have no responsibility.
  • 28% said government should have a “great deal” of responsibility, with 26% saying government should have no responsibility.

Still, respondents by a 2-1 ratio would permit laws such as California’s ban on sale or rentals to minors: 68% said government should be able to prevent sales or rentals of violent games to children under age 18; 31% said it should not, with 2% undecided.

“In recent decades, adults concerned about the impact of comic books, popular music and movies on children have pressed for government control of content, but voluntary industry codes and parental monitoring largely have worked,” said Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Center.  “Mom and Dad are still in the best position to keep inappropriate content out of the hands of kids.”

Results of the survey are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 29-30, 2010, by Gallup on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,033 adults, age 18 or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit dial sampling. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. See survey results.

Experts at the First Amendment Center are available to discuss the survey findings: Ken Paulson, president; Gene Policinski, senior vice president and executive director; and David Hudson, First Amendment Center scholar. To arrange an interview, please contact the First Amendment Center at 615-727-1600.

The First Amendment Center supports the First Amendment and builds understanding of its core freedoms through education, information and entertainment. The center, with offices at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C., is an operating program of the Freedom Forum and is associated with the Newseum and the Diversity Institute. Its offices on the Vanderbilt campus are in the John Seigenthaler Center. The center is nonpartisan and does not lobby or litigate.