HuffPost Green is launching a weeklong, community-driven effort to bust the myths and raise awareness about pit bulls, a maligned "breed" that often bears the brunt of dated, discriminatory legislation that can make it near impossible for these dogs to find a forever home. You can follow along with HuffPost Pit Bull Week here, on Facebook or on Twitter, where we'll be using the hashtag #PitBullWeek.
Pit bulls have long been subject to myths and stereotypes portraying them as inherently vicious animals that are dangerous to people, other pets or both. Most of those stereotypes are just plain untrue. But that doesn't stop many Americans from having a negative opinion of the dogs, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows.
According to the new poll, 40 percent of Americans consider pit bulls to be too dangerous to live in residential neighborhoods, while 39 percent consider them to be safe.
And many Americans consider pit bulls to be more dangerous than your average dog. Only 27 percent of Americans consider medium-sized dogs in general to be very dangerous (3 percent) or somewhat dangerous (24 percent) to people or other animals. But 59 percent consider pit bulls to be very dangerous (24 percent) or somewhat dangerous (35 percent).
Because of the widespread perception that pit bulls are dangerous animals, some municipalities ban pit bull-type dogs outright. But the new survey carries some positive news for pit bulls and their owners: Far more Americans say owning a pit bull should be legal than illegal, by a 63 percent to 16 percent margin.
And despite a majority of Americans saying that pit bulls are at least somewhat dangerous, only 38 percent of Americans said that pit bulls are naturally more aggressive than other dogs. Fifty percent said they agreed more with the statement that "some dogs are socialized to be aggressive, but pit bulls are no more susceptible than other dogs."
Still, half of Americans said they would not consider adopting a pit bull if they were adopting a dog, while only 31 percent said they would. And 51 percent said they would advise a family with young children against adopting a pit bull, compared to 11 percent who said they would advise that family in favor of buying a pit bull. Twenty-seven percent said they wouldn't care much either way.
But looking at the generational breakdown, the arc of history may yet bend in pit bulls' favor. While two-thirds of Americans over age 45 said they would advise a family with kids against adopting a pit bull, only one-third of those under 45 said the same. And while more than half of people over age 45 said that pit bulls are too dangerous to live in residential neighborhoods, those younger than age 45 were much more likely to say that pit bulls are safe.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted July 22-24 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.
The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here.