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80% of Americans Approve of Hunting, But There’s Still Work to Be Done

Gabriella Hoffman
by Gabriella Hoffman Read Profile arrow_right_alt

A new survey jointly released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and Responsive Management in August found that 80 percent of Americans approve of legal hunting, but with conditions.

The survey was conducted with the goal of assessing “trends in Americans’ attitudes toward hunting, fishing, sport shooting, and trapping.”

It polled respondents aged 18 and over, with a sample size ranging from 800 to 5,103 and margin-of-error (MOE) between 1.4-5%. Responsive Management collected 3,014 completed interviews.

The respondents were largely Californians and Texans, 12.4% of respondents and 9.3%, respectively. 6.4% were from New York and Florida, with Pennsylvania rounding up the top five at 4.1% of total respondents. Here’s the chart of survey respondents according to region:

It’s no surprise that rural residents, compared to the wider American public, generally approve of hunting (89.8% approval) compared to urban residents.

The survey also determined that recreational shooters and anglers tend to boast more positive views of hunting compared to those who don’t shoot guns or fish. The survey also found that rural, gun-owning, white, male residents have stronger approval of legal hunting compared to Hispanics, those from non-gun owning families, African Americans, Northeasterners, and women.


With overall approval of legal hunting having been established, the survey broke down approval according to approval of reasons behind hunting, types of hunting, or species hunted, for example.

It comes as no surprise that approval of legal hunting was highest in the Midwest (86% approval), while the lowest approval of legal hunting was found in the Northeast (72% approval).This contrasts previous approval ratings of legal hunting documented as far back as 1995, which was 73% at the time. This is encouraging to see, despite languishing hunting participation numbers.

The top motivations to hunt are for people to protect ourselves from harm, to eat wild game meat, for wildlife management purposes, or get locally sourced food. Motivation to hunt for a trophy came last. Here are more stats broken down by approve and strongly approve:

  • To protect humans from harm (85% approve; 63% strongly approve)
  • For the meat (84% approve; 61% strongly approve)
  • For wildlife management (82% approve; 58% strongly approve)
  • To get locally sourced food (83% approve; 56% strongly approve)
  • To get organic meat (77% approve; 50% strongly approve)
  • To protect property (74% approve; 48% strongly approve)
  • For the sport (50% approve; 26% strongly approve)
  • For the challenge (41% approve; 19% strongly approve)
  • For a trophy (29% approve; 9% strongly approve)

When respondents were asked about the type of wildlife species pursued, the species respondents approved or strongly approved of hunting in the largest quantities included deer, wild turkey, waterfowl, and rabbit. Mountain lion, African lion, and African elephant rounded out the least approved species. More interestingly, approval of hunting black bear and wild turkey has increased since 2016. Here are the stats broken down:

  • Deer (78% approve; 56% strongly approve)
  • Wild turkey (78% approve; 55% strongly approve)
  • Duck (74% approve; 47% strongly approve)
  • Rabbit (72% approve; 47% strongly approve)
  • Squirrel (65% approve; 43% strongly approve)
  • Elk (66% approve; 39% strongly approve)
  • Alligator (61% approve; 36% strongly approve)
  • Mourning dove (44% approve; 24% strongly approve)
  • Black bear (44% approve; 21% strongly approve)
  • Grizzly bear (40% approve; 20% strongly approve)
  • Wolf (39% approve; 20% strongly approve)
  • Mountain lion or cougar (38% approve; 18% strongly approve)
  • African lion (14% approve; 6% strongly approve)
  • African elephant (7% approve; 3% strongly approve)

The responses to approved methods of hunting were very interesting. Bow hunting overwhelming was listed as the most approved method followed by hunting with dogs and hunting with scents. Here are the hunting methods broken down:

• Hunting with a bow and arrow (80% approve; 60% strongly approve)
• Hunting with dogs (55% approve; 26% strongly approve)
• Hunting using scents that attract game (43% approve; 18% strongly approve)
• Hunting over bait (32% approve; 13% strongly approve)
• Hunting bear during the spring (20% approve; 10% strongly approve)
• Hunting using high-tech gear such as hearing devices or laser tripwires
(26% approve; 9% strongly approve)
• Hunting on property that has a high fence around it (21% approve; 8% strongly approve)


Fishing boasts more approval than hunting, according to the survey results. 93% of Americans approve of legal recreational fishing, yet approval for types of recreational fishing vary like they do for hunting.

The survey noted:

The survey findings suggest that fishing is less controversial than hunting: 93% of Americans approve of legal recreational fishing (compared to 80% who approve of legal hunting). Like hunting, however, approval of fishing depends on the motivation: more Americans approve of fishing for food
than fishing for the sport, for the challenge, or for a trophy fish. Meanwhile, most methods of fishing have high approval, with the exceptions of gigging and snagging.

When asked about motivations to fish, respondents noted consumption of fish and supplementing income are strong motivators to partake in recreational fishing. They are broken down below:

  • For fish to eat (96% approve; 84% strongly approve)
  • To supplement income (82% approve; 55% strongly approve)
  • For the challenge (70% approve; 43% strongly approve)
  • For the sport (73% approve; 43% strongly approve)
  • For a trophy fish (53% approve; 26% strongly approve)

When it came to methods of fishing, the results were interesting. Catch-and-release fishing, bait fishing, and fly fishing were the most favorable methods, while gigging and snagging weren’t. Here are the result broken down:

• Catch-and-release fishing (89% approve; 73% strongly approve)
• Fishing with bait (91% approve; 68% strongly approve)
• Fly-fishing (84% approve; 63% strongly approve)
• Fishing with lures (86% approve; 63% strongly approve)
• Crabbing (79% approve; 54% strongly approve)
• Gigging (57% approve; 32% strongly approve)
• Snagging (43% approve; 21% strongly approve)

Shooting Sports

The survey found that 81% of Americans approve of legal shooting sports activities. Here’s how the numbers were further broken down:

  • Shooting sports are perfectly acceptable. (65%)
  • Shooting sports are OK, but maybe a little inappropriate now. (23%)
  • Shooting sports are inappropriate nowadays. (9%)


Trapping was seen as the most controversial or least widely-accepted activity, with only 52% of Americans approving of regulated trapping with 31% disapproving.

When it came to motivations for trapping, the top factors where for restoration programs, for subsistence, controlling wildlife population, and for meat. Here are the stats broken down:

• As part of a restoration program (84% approve; 59% strongly approve)
• For subsistence (73% approve; 47% strongly approve)
• To help control wildlife populations (73% approve; 47% strongly approve)
• For food (72% approve; 44% strongly approve)
• To reduce damages to crops and gardens (69% approve; 39% strongly approve)
• To reduce damage to human property (65% approve; 35% strongly approve)
• As part of a biological study (64% approve; 33% strongly approve)
• To make money (35% approve; 16% strongly approve)
• For fur clothing (30% approve; 13% strongly approve)
• For recreation (28% approve; 10% strongly approve)

Having read these findings, would you give any of these outdoor activities a try? For hunting and trapping, there’s a lot of work to be done. Let’s get to work.


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