CNN Poll On Arizona Shootings: The Public Gets It Even If The Pundits Don’t

CNN is out with the first real post-Arizona poll of public opinion and the results are quite interesting.

Washington (CNN) – Americans feel sadness, anger and shock in the wake of the tragic events in Tucson, Arizona, according to a new national poll. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday also indicates there’s plenty of blame to go around over the shootings, but two-thirds of the public is pessimistic that the government or society can prevent something like this from happening again.

Here are a few bullet points:

1. On the question of whether the shootings made respondents more or less likely to support increased gun control regulation:

  • More likely — 28%
  • Less likely — 3%
  • No change — 69%

2. On what factors respondents blame for the shootings

  • 52% place a “great deal” or moderate amount of blame on gun control law, 47% say gun control laws played little or no role in the shootings
  • 48% place a “great deal” or moderate amount of blame on harsh or violent political rhetoric, 49% believe that rhetoric played little or no role
  • 35% place a “great deal” or moderate amount of blame on Sarah Palin’s “target map,” 59% believe it played little or no role
  • 70% place a “great deal” or moderate amount of blame on the state of mental health care, 28% believe it played little or no role

3. On likelihood that harsh or violent political rhetoric could cause a future Tucson-like incident:

  • Very likely — 25%
  • Somewhat likely — 29%
  • Somewhat unlikely — 19%
  • Very unlikely — 26%
  • No opinion — 5%

The public doesn’t seem to be at all convinced of the “tone” arguments that some pundits made to try to assign blame for what happened in Tucson, and they seem to have a greater appreciation for the role that mental health issues play in cases like this. Perhaps the guys on CNN and MSNBC should get a clue.

FILED UNDER: Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Tano says:

    Huh? I see 54% of the people thinking that the current harsh rhetoric may contribute to another Tuscon event, and a near even split on whether it contributed to the current event. How do you extract your conclusions from these data?

  2. Terrye says:


    Maybe it was the 70% that placed blame on the mental health system.

    As for harsh rhetoric, I saw a poll a couple of days ago that said liberals were more to blame for harsh rhetoric than conservatives.

    So maybe you guys should clean up your own act before you go preaching to everyone else.

  3. Terrye says:

    I saw this at Legal Insurrection and thought it was interesting when compared to the numbers posted above, it was also about the CNN poll:

    The rational finding is that an overwhelming majority of people (66%) recognize that such shootings will still take place regardless of what government does. This view accurately reflects the reaility that Jared Loughner was not living in reality, and that stopping people like Loughner is incredibly difficult.

    Two other findings, however, prove the power of false narratives.

    First, the poll asked various questions as to the specific causes of the shooting. This question was not a generalized question about violence in general or political strife, but specific to this shooting.

    Despite the facts which have come out showing that Jared Loughner was not a political person and was motivated by his own delusions rather than politics, 25% of people believe that “the use of harsh rhetoric and violent metaphors by politicians and commentators” contributed “a great deal” to the shooting with another 23% believing such rhetoric contributed “a moderate amount.” (32% said “not at all” and 17% said “not much.”)

    Among Democrats, a total of 67% believed political rhetoric contributed (39% great deal, 28% moderate amount, 15% not at all, 16% not much). Among those identified as Opposed to Tea Parties the numbers were 40% great deal, 29% moderate amount, 14% not at all, 15% not at all.

    Such responses show that the evidence notwithstanding, the narrative of “harsh rhetoric and violent metaphors” causing the shooting has sunk into the public consciousness.

    But the more disturbing question was whether the shooting was caused by a “map on Sarah Palin’s website that marked 20 congressional districts, including the district represented by the congresswoman who was shot, with an image that looked like the crosshairs of a gun.”

    Remember, there is not a shred of evidence that Jared Loughner ever saw the map. As discussed here numerous times, the connection of the map to the shooting was a complete fiction concocted moments after the shooting by certain left-wing bloggers who spread the connection into the mainstream media.

    Nonetheless, 19% of people say the map contributed a “great deal” to the shooting and another 16% a “moderate amount.” (44% say “not at all” and 15% “not much.”) Among Democrats, the numbers were 32% great deal, 24% moderate amount, 24% not at all, 18% not much. Among people identified as Opposed to Tea Parties, a total of 58% believed the map was a cause of the shooting (34% great deal, 24% moderate amount, 18% not at all, 19% not much

    That a total of 35% of people (and 56% of Democrats) believe that a Palin map Loughner never saw contributed in some meaningful way to the shooting demonstrates the method to the madness of those who were spreading the Palin map myth before all the dead had been counted.

  4. daveinboca says:

    Terrye, yes, Legal Insurrection sums up the situation very well. The dementia of Demonrats like Tano who manufacture damned lies through statistics is evident all over the lemmingsphere which fans the hysteria that Palin and a map inflamed a schizoid moron who probably suffers from teen-onset schizophrenia.

    The vast and sane majority blame the mental health safeguards, which incidentally would come in very useful to the minority of Dems who persist in manufacturing delusions to ponder upon. They sound like likely candidates for a back-ward cell in St. Elizabeth’s close to John Hinckley.

  5. Terrye says:


    And where do you put a guy like Loughner anyway? He was a Bush bashing Truther on top of everything else, if you had to pick a side in the political debate that best fit him, it would probably be the Michael Moore side of the aisle. But even then he was not actually political, he just picked things up along the way. If it was odd or strange or paranoid..there he was. I think most people get it.

  6. Tano says:

    Well, I am ever glad to give the two of you yet another chance to spew – but mine was really just a simple question. And it wasn’t addressed to either of you. I asked Doug how he could draw the conclusions that he does given the results of the poll, because my reading of the basic numbers is as I characterized them.

    For the record, I have never claimed that Palin, on the obnoxious spewers on the right, caused the Tuscon tragedy. I was in no way trying to advance any such argument. But neither of you really care about that, do you?

  7. An Interested Party says:

    The only thing more pathetic than trying to tie Jared Loughner around Sarah Palin’s neck is to try to tie him around Michael Moore’s neck and then claim “oh, but he’s not political anyway”…for those out there who are just so mortified that anyone would try to tie this loon to rightwing rhetoric, turning around and trying to tie him to the left is just as desperate…yes indeed, most people do get it…

  8. Axel Edgren says:

    In the spectrum between completely innocent (like a schoolkid in Bolivia) and totally culpable (Loughner himself), those who are to the left are less culpable than those to the right.

    The fact that he was nuts doesn’t change the fact that one side has been more insistent on blaming everything that is wrong with the US on the other.

    So it’s not a complete accident. Still, this degree of nuance can’t be recognized because the media is so prone to think in useless dualities. Naturally when everything is either/or you are not going to get anything useful out of a discussion.

  9. TG Chicago says:

    “The public doesn’t seem to be at all convinced of the “tone” arguments that some pundits made to try to assign blame for what happened in Tucson…”

    Can you specify which pundits assigned blame for the tragedy on “tone”? I didn’t really read a lot of punditry on the issue(*), so I missed this.

    (*)Seemed to me that “crazy guy goes on shooting spree” didn’t require much analysis.