The effects of Steve Kerr’s remarks on gun violence

Josh Berezin, Lead Strategist

Summary: Steve Kerr’s pre-game speech about the need for federal action on gun violence prevention had dramatic effects on support for new gun violence prevention laws.

In the wake of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, the mass shooting in Irvine, California, and many others, we found ourselves reeling, like so many in our movement. 

Before the Golden State Warriors’ playoff game on the day of the shooting, Coach Steve Kerr delivered impassioned remarks about the need for action to control gun violence, his frustration with federal inaction, and a plea to US Senators who have blocked progress on this issue. If you haven’t yet watched the video, please take three minutes, click through, and watch it now.

His remarks were urgent and authentic. They struck many who believed in the need for gun violence prevention as powerful, but we wondered if they would also persuade people who didn’t yet feel that more action was necessary to reduce gun violence.

We knew that if his words were persuasive, it would be crucial to act immediately to push out his video, reaching as many people as possible while the remarks were current and the issue was front and center in people’s minds.

So, this morning, the morning after the shooting, we launched a Rapid Message Test designed to evaluate whether the video of Kerr’s remarks increased support for enacting stricter gun laws, and whether they increased support for a universal background check law. Now, at the end of the day, we have results that show the powerful effect of his words.

After participants viewed either the Kerr video or a placebo video, we asked them the following survey question:

In general, do you feel that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now?

While 55% of people assigned to see the placebo video believed laws covering firearm sales should be made more strict, 69% of people who saw Kerr’s remarks felt these laws should be made more strict, an increase of 14 percentage points

People assigned to see a video of Kerr’s remarks were 14 percentage points more likely to support making laws covering the sale of firearms more strict

Effects were even larger among people who lived in rural areas, those who had a high school education or less, women, and moderates. There was no demographic group for which this message caused backlash. 

This effect is dramatic. Groups interested in rallying public support for stricter gun laws should send this message out widely.

Universal background check laws are very popular, as Kerr mentioned. For policies with high levels of support, it can be hard to find any message that increases support even further. So we were skeptical that his speech would work to increase support for these laws.

To determine if the message could work on background checks specifically, we asked participants the following question:

Would you favor or oppose a law which would require universal background checks for all gun purchases in the U.S. using a centralized database across all 50 states?

We saw very high support for this policy among people who were assigned to see the placebo video — 74% of those people said they favor it. Even with that high baseline support, the video of Kerr’s remarks increased support for universal background checks by a significant 7 percentage points. We saw the largest persuasion effects among rural voters, those with a high school education or less, and people who voted Trump in 2020.

People who saw Kerr’s remarks were 7 percentage points more supportive of universal background check laws than people assigned to see a placebo video

Even for this popular policy, the Kerr video increased support to still-higher levels. 

Clearly, there’s something special about this video — the message, the messenger, the tone, the emotion that’s clearly behind his words. Whatever it is that makes this so effective, it’s not straightforward to replicate. But when effective messages like these arise, they present an opportunity for groups to make especially large progress driving support for change.