A majority of Americans, 56%, opposes hunting animals for sport, and most Americans, 86%, consider big game hunting to be especially distasteful.
But, should big game hunting be legally prohibited? More than six in ten residents, 62%, say the practice is wrong and should be legally banned, including 34% of hunters. Another 24% of Americans and 31% of hunters say they disapprove of the practice but do not think it should be deemed illegal. 11% of adults nationally think the practice is acceptable. Not surprisingly, those who are hunters or have an interest in hunting, 28%, are more likely than Americans, overall, to say there is nothing wrong with big game hunting.
Americans are more opposed to big game hunting when compared with hunting animals for sport. A majority of Americans believes hunting, in general, is wrong. This includes 26% who think it should be illegal and 33% who disapprove but do not think it should be banned. 37% of U.S. residents say there is nothing wrong with hunting animals, more than three times the proportion of Americans who believe big game hunting is acceptable.
Most Americans, 81%, have heard something about the controversy surrounding Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer’s big game hunt, including 56% who say they know at least a good amount about it. Dr. Palmer drew international attention after he killed an African lion who was collared and part of a study. Dr. Palmer maintains he was unaware that Cecil was a local favorite and relied on his guides to ensure a fair hunt. Do Americans think Palmer acted illegally? About one in three residents, 32%, says he did something illegal while an additional 41% believe his actions were unethical but not illegal. A notable 22% say the dentist did nothing wrong. Hunters, 42%, are nearly twice as likely as residents, overall, to report that Dr. Palmer’s actions were acceptable.
Views on big game hunting are not absolute. Nearly four in ten opponents of the sport, 39%, say, if given the information that money paid for big game hunting would be allocated toward conservation efforts and to save animals that would otherwise have died, their view would change either a great deal, 10%, or somewhat, 29%.
How popular is hunting in the United States? More than one in ten Americans, 11%, reports they have hunted within the last couple of years. And, regardless of whether or not they have hunted, one in five Americans, 20%, have interest in the sport.
This HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll has been conducted in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication.
“We are far more universally aligned against hunting big game animals than hunting for sport, both generally and in the specific case of Cecil the lion,” says Keith Strudler, Director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “We can see that national opinions on this sport are driven more by the type of animal than perhaps general notions of killing animals or even guns.”
- 56% of Americans either strongly oppose, 33%, or somewhat oppose, 23%, hunting animals for sport. 41% of adults either strongly favor it, 20%, or somewhat favor the practice, 21%.
- 86% of Americans disapprove of big game hunting. This includes 62% who think big game hunting is wrong and should be prohibited by law and 24% who personally disapprove of the practice but do not think it should be legally banned. 11% say this type of hunting is acceptable.
- Even three in four gun owners, 75%, and about two-thirds of hunters, 65%, are opposed to big game hunting, although, gun owners, 20%, and hunters, 28%, are more likely than Americans, overall, to think big game hunting is acceptable.
- Women, 68%, are more likely than men, 55%, to say big game hunting should be legally prohibited.
- Nearly six in ten adults nationally, 59%, think hunting animals for sport, in general, is unacceptable. Included here are 26% who say hunting should be prohibited by law and 33% who say they personally disapprove but do not think hunting should be illegal. 37% say it is an acceptable practice.
- Men, 45%, are more likely than women, 30%, to believe there is nothing wrong with hunting.
- When it comes to the controversy surrounding Dr. Walter Palmer, most Americans, 81%, have heard about it. A majority of Americans, 56%, have heard either a great deal, 34%, or a good amount, 22%, about Palmer’s hunt in Africa which resulted in the killing of Cecil the lion.
- 73% of Americans believe Palmer did something wrong during his big game hunt. Only 32% say he did something illegal. 41% report Palmer’s actions were unethical but not illegal. A notable 22% think Dr. Palmer did nothing wrong.
- Hunters, 42%, and gun owners, 32%, are more likely than Americans, overall, to report Dr. Palmer did nothing wrong.
- If given the knowledge that money paid for big game hunts funded conservation efforts, 61% of Americans who oppose big game hunting say their opinion would not change. 10% say this information would alter their opinion a great deal, and 29% report it would change their view somewhat.
- 20% of Americans say they are interested in hunting as a sport, and 11% say they have been hunting in the past couple of years.
- Gun owners, 29%, are nearly three times as likely as Americans, overall, to say they have hunted recently.
- There is also a gender difference. 18% of men have participated in a hunt over the last couple of years compared with only 5% of women.