New Poll Shows Strong Support For A Variety Of Gun Control Measures

New polling shows that public support for several gun control proposals continue to increase in the wake of February's shooting at a Parkland, Florida High School.

A new poll from Fox News Channel shows rising support for some gun control measures, but voters remain unsure that Congress will act:

Voters prioritize protecting citizens from gun violence over protecting the rights of gun owners.  And while majorities support a variety of gun control proposals, the latest Fox News poll also finds doubt Congress will act — or that it would make any difference if it does.

By a 13-point margin, voters consider protecting against gun violence more important than protecting gun rights (53-40 percent).

In addition, there’s substantial support for specific measures to reduce gun violence, including: requiring criminal background checks on all gun buyers (91 percent), requiring mental health checks on all gun buyers (84 percent), raising the age to buy all guns to 21 (72 percent), putting armed guards in schools (69 percent), and banning assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons (60 percent).

The proposal a majority rejects is allowing teachers and school officials to carry guns on school grounds (57 percent oppose).  That was also the case in 2013 (52 percent opposed.)

The Fox News poll asked about these measures in January 2013, a month after the Newtown Connecticut school shooting that killed 26.

Compared to that time, support for putting armed guards at schools is up nine points, a ban on assault weapons is up six, and requiring mental health checks is up one.  Support for universal background checks is unchanged — and about 9-in-10 Democrats, Republicans, and independents favor them.

Nearly half of those living in a gun-owner household favor banning assault weapons:  47 percent favor, 50 percent oppose.

(…)

Some 38 percent say it is “extremely” important for Congress to pass gun legislation this year, but only 7 percent think that’s “extremely” likely to happen.

And if Congress takes action, more voters are concerned the changes it makes won’t go far enough than it will go too far (50-36 percent).

Meanwhile, there’s increasing ambivalence about stricter gun control laws: 42 percent say they won’t make a difference, up from 20 percent two years ago.  And while 44 percent think stricter laws would make the country safer, that’s down eight points from 52 percent in 2016.  Twelve percent think stricter laws would make the country less safe, down from 24 percent.

When asked about President Trump’s positions on guns, 39 percent say they are “about right,” yet almost as many, 34 percent, think he’s too close to gun owners.  Thirteen percent feel he goes too far in supporting gun control.

Voters give the president some of his worst ratings for the job he’s doing on guns:  40 percent approve, while 54 percent disapprove.  That puts him underwater by 14 points.  He receives similar marks on immigration (-14 points) and the opioid crisis (-13).

Overall, 45 percent report someone in their household owns a gun, and those voters are more likely to think stricter laws won’t make a difference to safety (50 percent) and worry new gun laws would “go too far” (53 percent).  Voters in gun households are also more likely to be Republicans (59 percent), live in rural areas (57 percent), and be Southerners (55 percent).

Those most likely to prioritize protecting citizens against gun violence include Democrats (79 percent), non-whites, suburban women, and non-gun owners (each 70 percent), and voters under 30 (57 percent).  Voters who say it’s more important to protect the right to own guns include Republicans (67 percent), white men without a college degree (60 percent), white evangelical Christians (58 percent), and gun-owner households (57 percent).

Looking deeper into the poll, there are not unexpected partisan differences:

  • On the question of whether it is more important to protect gun rights or protect citizens from gun violence, a majority of Democrats (79%) and a plurality of Independents (47%) say it is more important to protect citizens from gun violence while a majority of Republicans (67%) say it is more important to protect gun rights;
  • On the question of arming teachers as a response to school violence, a majority of Democrats (81%) and Independents (59%) oppose such an idea while a majority of Republicans (64%) say they are in favor of it;
  • Placing armed guards in schools, on the other hand, is supported by a majority of Democrats (58%), Independents (68%). and Republicans (81%);
  • Expanding background checks to include private sales and other sales currently outside the background check system is overwhelmingly supported by Democrats (94%), Independents (90%), and Republicans (89%);
  • Mental health checks on gun buyers are also supported across the board by Democrats (89%), Independents (84%), and Republicans (80%);
  • On the issue of banning assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons, such a measure is supported by a majority of Democrats (79%) and Independents (57%) but opposed by a majority of Republicans (56%) while 41% of Republicans say they would support such a measure;
  • Raising the minimum age to purchase any weapon from 18 to 21 is supported by a majority of Democrats (86%), Independents (71%), and Republicans (57%);

These numbers are consistent with other polling that has been taken in the wake of the February 14th shooting at  Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, an event that has resulted in increased awareness of the issue that culminated most recently in the protests that took place in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere around the country on Saturday. Another poll released this weekend from CBS and YouGov finds a strong majority of voters say that gun policy is an important issue when it comes to deciding how they will vote:

Two-thirds of Americans say a candidate must agree with their views on gun policy to earn their vote, according to a poll released Sunday.

The CBS News poll, conducted by YouGov from March 19-21, found 66 percent of respondents believe a candidate must share their views on guns. The other 34 percent said a candidate can hold differing views on gun legislation and still earn their vote.

Sixty-eight percent of Republicans and the same percentage of Democrats said a candidate must share their views on guns. Sixty-five percent of independents said they would only vote for a candidate with similar views on the issue, according to the poll.

While this last poll may give some hope to advocates for gun control, it’s worth noting that voters saying that gun policy is important to them in deciding whether to support a candidate applies to virtually all demographic groups, including those that are less inclined to support gun control measures. Additionally, as I’ve noted in the past, we’ve seen increases in perceived support for gun control measures after other mass shooting incidents only to find that this increase in support is short-lived and that it ends up having little impact at the policy level and almost no impact on the outcome of elections.

For example, polling indicated increased support for certain gun control measures in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October that resulted in the death of 59 people and more than eight hundred injured, making it the worse such event in American history. Despite this, there was no movement on the issue in Congress on even the seemingly straightforward idea of banning bump stocks, the devices which allow semi-automatic weapons to act as if they are fully automatic. Although there has been some action in that regard by the Department of Justice that may or may not survive a future court challenge.

We saw the same thing happen after the shooting in December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In the immediate aftermath of the attack that resulted in the death of 27, including many young children, many Americans voiced support for stricter gun control laws. Even in the wake of that horrific tragedy, though, it was clear from those same polls that gun control was not a high priority issue even when it came to issues such as stricter background checks or banning so-called “assault weapons.”  Inevitably, as time passed and the memory of Sandy Hook or other similar mass shooting events faded into memory, the polls showed support for stricter gun control began to fade. Within three months of Sandy Hook, for example, polling was already showing that gun control was slipping as a priority for voters. Within a year after the shooting, support for most gun control measures had fallen back levels they were at prior to the shooting. By the second anniversary of Sandy Hook, polling indicated that more Americans supported protecting gun rights than passing new gun control measures. By the time of the third anniversary of the tragedy, polling showed a majority of Americans opposing a ban on the type of weapon used in the Sandy Hook shooting, If history is any guide, then this is what is likely to happen this time as well.

All of this brings to mind something Kevin Drum wrote in the wake of the defeat of the Manchin-Toomey bill, which was put before the Senate mere months after the Sandy Hook shooting That bill would have expanded background checks and purported to close other loopholes in the background check system, It also happened to be an issue that enjoyed at the time, and continues to enjoy, widespread public support even among Republicans, conservatives, and gun owners:

about 80 percent of those Americans think it sounds like a reasonable idea but don’t really care much. I doubt that one single senator will suffer at the polls in 2014 for voting against Manchin-Toomey.

Gun control proposals poll decently all the time. But the plain truth is that there are only a small number of people who feel really strongly about it, and they mostly live in urban blue districts already. Outside of that, pro-gun control opinion is about an inch deep. This is a classic case where poll literalism leads you completely astray. Without measuring intensity of feeling, that 90 percent number is meaningless.

I made a similar observation at the time:

Even at the height of the post-Newtown political push, only 6% of Americans considered gun control the most important problem facing the nation. That’s a far cry from the vast majority of voters who say that they support the various gun control measures that have been advocated over the past four months.

This isn’t the first indication that gun control is a low intensity issue among American voters.  Back in January, just one month after Newtown, a similar Gallup poll showed the same results that we see in this month’s release. At that time, I predicted that it would be difficult for gun control advocates to get the most ambitious parts of their agenda through even the Senate, but I thought at the time that at least something would be passed. In part, I thought this because it seemed as though the post-Newtown attention paid to the issue was going to make it inevitable and that a low-priority issue like background checks would be something that Congress could pass to make it appear that they’re doing something, even though in reality the Manchin/Toomey bill would have done little to stop the massacres that have garnered much attention over the years. As it turned out, the politics of the issue were far more complicated, and public intensity on the issue of gun control was far less than many thought it might be after the events of Newtown.

Once you understand where the politics of gun control actually stand, the behavior of Republicans and red state Democrats becomes completely understandable.

Perhaps this time will be different. The activism of the students from Stoneman Douglas and others has been surprisingly effective in keeping the issue in the forefront of public attention even as it competes for public attention from a wide variety of corners. We can see evidence of that in both the walkouts that occurred across the country on the one month anniversary of the attacks and Saturday’s protests. Additionally, several national retailers such as  Dick’s Sporting GoodsWalmartKroger, and L.L. Bean have changed their policies and are no longer selling any weapons to anyone under 21. Additionally, Florida enacted a series of gun control and school security measures that didn’t seem as if they would be possible beforehand. Not surprisingly, lawsuits have already been filed against the private retailers and against the Florida law. However, the fact that these developments took place at all is significant and could be an indication that the political momentum that the gun control side of the debate has received in the wake of the Parkland shooting will not fade as has happened in the past, and that could have an interesting impact on the outcome of elections at the state and Federal levels in November.

 

FILED UNDER: Guns and Gun Control, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Modulo Myself says:

    This time is probably different. When Sandy Hook happened, Alex Jones and his crisis actors were marginal figures. Now, most Americans are aware of the worms in 30% of the brains in this country. For example, you have idiots proposing, in lieu of gun control, turning schools into ‘secure perimeter objective with free fire zones for determined operators to conduct tactical sweeps’. Imagine saying that to a human being and not being told to go f— yourself. Or the people sneering at high school kids a month after their school was shot up…

    Gun control will obviously not stop mass shootings. But you can limit the carnage, and, more importantly, guns can be turned into what they actually are–weapons craved by the indecent, selfish, and pathetic.




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  2. SKI says:

    Perhaps this time will be different.

    Indeed. We have all seen the naysayers on twitter and elsewhere poo-pooing the thought that it might be different this time. To which I can only respond that while it is important to learn from past experience, it is equally important to understand what has changed. Because that is the one constant – that things change.

    Peasant revolts never succeeded… until they did.




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  3. michael reynolds says:

    At this point in history the American citizen with more moral authority than any other single person, is a 17 year-old named Emma González. If you don’t agree, offer a name with greater moral authority. That is both deserved praise for an extraordinarily impressive woman, and a sad damn commentary on the US circa 2018.




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  4. Paul L. says:

    @michael reynolds:
    What building and classroom was Emma Gonzalez in during the February 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School?
    “She hid in the auditorium”
    The auditorium is not in Building 12
    Please Democrats make Gun Control/Safety/Reform a main issue in 2018.




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  5. grumpy realist says:

    Police here in Chicago just picked up an idiot with body armor, a gun, and explosive residue traveling on his way from NYC to somewhere in California.

    The more the NRA tries to insist that this is “normal behavior” (up until the bullets start flying) protected under the Consistution, the more they’re going to piss people off.




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  6. teve tory says:

    Indeed. We have all seen the naysayers on twitter and elsewhere poo-pooing the thought that it might be different this time.

    Well, I generally poo-poo it, maybe because i live in the deep south and mostly see tards like Paul L up above me there. Here in Florida the NRA writes the laws. At some point there will be a tipping point, and I’d like to think it’s now, but as long as the NRA can enrage several million Re-Res with a single email, i wouldn’t lay money on it.




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  7. michael reynolds says:

    @Paul L.:
    You’re a creep.




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  8. Kathy says:

    Has it occurred to anyone there is a great dela of gun violence in the US because there are a lot of guns in America, and there are a lot of guns because they’re legal and relatively easy to obtain?




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  9. James Pearce says:

    @Paul L.:

    What building and classroom was Emma Gonzalez in during the February 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School?

    Info Wars is thataway. —->

    @michael reynolds:

    That is both deserved praise for an extraordinarily impressive woman, and a sad damn commentary on the US circa 2018.

    Seconded.




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  10. inhumans99 says:

    @Paul L.:

    ???

    What is the point you are trying to make Paul? A student at Marjory Stoneman High School is only allowed to have an opinion if she was in imminent danger of being killed by a hail of bullets?? I was only going to say that I respectfully disagree, but instead I want to go with yikes! if what I just wrote above is anywhere close to the point you are trying to make.




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  11. grumpy realist says:

    @Paul L.: So only if she gets her head split open is she supposed to have an opinion?




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  12. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Paul L.:

    What building and classroom was Emma Gonzalez in during the February 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School?

    And yet you hide behind your keyboard like a major-league coward and feel perfectly justified in opining.
    Fvcking hilarious.




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  13. KM says:

    @inhumans99 :

    Funny how they don’t talk about the troops like that – it’s always “thank you for your service” even if the service was 5yr of admin work sending toilet paper to the right base. By this logic, should we only be thanking those who actually got shot at and were not just “in the general vicinity” of bullets aka in-country? I mean, yeah Iraq was *dangerous( but if nobody shot at them, they’re fakes right? Why are they allowed to have opinions and deserve respect if they weren’t on patrol when their buddies got ambushed?

    This is a de-legitimization tactic they like to use. Truth is, those students had no freaking clue where the shooter was. Could be 5 buildings away, could be 5ft away – your reaction should be the same and that’s what they drill with. Even if the only kids to speak were the ones in the same room as the dead ones, even if the only ones to speak had blood splashed on them and seen the gore that was once their friends, idiots like Paul L would STILL tell them they don’t have the right to speak. After all, it’s just a little blood and trauma; it’s not like they’re dead, right?

    The goalposts will be moved out to sea if need be. They don’t want these kids to speak and will do anything to make it sound like they don’t have any right speak up about what happened with authority.




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  14. Franklin says:

    @Paul L.: Just wow, what does that have to do with anything? Did she have no friends who were affected in any way?




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  15. Mikey says:

    @Franklin: It has nothing to do with anything. As @KM said, it’s a delegitimization tactic, along with equating the kids to Nazis, insulting their appearance and sexuality, and passing faked pictures around of them tearing a copy of the Constitution.

    It’s desperate lies by people to whom surrogate penises are more important than the lives of children.




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  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Paul L.: Where were you hiding during the shooting?




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  17. teve tory says:

    If donald trump would have rushed in there and confronted the shooter unarmed, then “The Good Guys” don’t even need guns, so why are they so hell-bent on keeping them?




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  18. Paul L. says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Just following the praised lead of The Broward County Sheriff department.
    Telling the students to turn off their F*cken phone so they could not record their incompetence and leading them out as they were criminals with their hands behind their heads because Officer Safety is paramount.
    They keep Emma Gonzalez in terror for 2 hours and David Hogg for 1 hour after Nikolas Cruz had fled after 10 minutes.

    1st Rule of Policing: Police have the right and the duty to go home at the end of each watch. It does not matter how many non-law enforcement personnel are injured or killed or have their “rights” violated to achieve this goal as Police are entitled to impunity for their violence and protection from harm above all others.




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  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Paul L.: I have to admit that your 2 comments bear a rather tenuous and superficial relationship to each other that I am having a hard time following.

    In the first you seem to be saying that her experiences that day were so meaningless that she has nothing to say worth listening to. In the 2nd, you seem to be laying the blame for all the terror she and her fellow students went thru on that day on the LEOs.




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  20. Paul L. says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    I blame the shooter first and the incompetence of the law enforcement caste second.
    17 students were wounded that day. Can we hear from them?
    But you defend the actions of LEOs that day.




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  21. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy:

    Has it occurred to anyone there is a great dela of gun violence in the US because there are a lot of guns in America, and there are a lot of guns because they’re legal and relatively easy to obtain?

    For pictures worth a thousand words see the charts in this VOX article. Especially the chart of gun related death rate against number of guns per 100 people with the U. S. all alone up at the top right corner.

    One should also point out that Canadians and Swedes and Australians and the British all hunt and target shoot. A lot of Norwegians and Swedes with rifles were recently on view in the Winter Olympics.




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  22. gVOR08 says:
  23. Chip Daniels says:

    The long term movement though, is that fewer and fewer households are owning guns, and the culture of hunting is dwindling, meaning that the face of a gun owner is changing.

    Instead of the kindly uncle who hunts deer a few times a year, the image of “gun owner” is increasingly the paranoid belligerent guy who carries an AR-15 into a grocery store just because he can.

    As gun owners shrink to the margins, it becomes progressively easier to challenge the existence of a “right” to own a deadly weapon in a civilized society.




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  24. Kathy says:

    @gVOR08:

    Thanks. I had seen that article before. The stats seem quite conclusive to me.

    I do understand having a gun for self-defense. I don’t understand the extreme attachment to guns some people have.




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  25. An Interested Party says:

    I don’t understand the extreme attachment to guns some people have.

    Fear…of the cops, or of dark-skinned people, or of the UN invading the country…or some other such nonsense…hell, Paul L. is a perfect example of that fear…




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  26. michael reynolds says:

    @An Interested Party:
    Not just their own fear: they enjoy the fear they know they can create in others. It’s a power rush for people who have no other form of power. They fantasize about heroic acts and grateful virgins. They see themselves as Dirty Harry, pointing their great big gun at some, punk.’ Manhood is about dominance in their world. They buy the macho bullsh!t and then look up one day and find themselves kissing their boss’s ass to hold onto a job they hate. They’re living a life utterly devoid of heroism. They are ordinary. Ah, but they have a secret power, a sacred talisman that marks them as special: a gun.

    It’s why they get so emotional. Without a gun they’re just. . . something they evidently aren’t happy about.




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  27. Tyrell says:

    These proposed measures sound good, but the most effective laws will keep criminals and those with mental problems away from guns.
    Once again the problem of shootings in places like Chicago is ignored. The rate so far this year is actually lowwe than last, but still too much. They need to set up metal detectors on every block. Those who have guns without a legal permit should face immediate lockup.
    Gang members should have their photos and addresses posted on line, on tv, and on phone poles. Much like the sex offender registry.
    Overall, in perspective a person is more likely to be killed or injured in a car wreck, yet we go and jump in our cars without afterthought, planning, or cursory inspection. Car drivers should adopt some if the same habits as airplane pilots.




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  28. Chip Daniels says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Because I am a man in my 50s, I was treated to an ad on Pandora for one of those “man-boosting” testosterone supplements.

    Except instead of just salacious suggestions about how to score hot young babes, the ad had some grey haired guy raving on and on about how the supplements made him feel as powerful as shooting his .357 Magnum, complete with video of him shooting the gun over and over.

    I mean, really the whole thing was like some Michael Moore parody of “how gun nuts think” equating his Big Gun with his Not So Big Gun. Except of course, it was real, in that some ad man crunched the data and figured this was the um, target audience for boner pills.




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  29. An Interested Party says:

    People should not have to be subjected to being slaughtered by some nut simply because some males have trouble feeling like real men…




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  30. de stijl says:

    Open carry was a bad decision by the gun fetishists. People can read about gun fixated people and internalize that knowledge, but then you see a person out-and-about at the grocery store or wherever, and then you really get it – that this is a truly creepy pathology.




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  31. de stijl says:

    @Chip Daniels:

    Hey, it got you to click on the ad!




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  32. KM says:

    @de stijl :

    but then you see a person out-and-about at the grocery store or wherever, and then you really get it – that this is a truly creepy pathology.

    It’s the grown-up equivalent of a security blanket or imaginary friend that avenge their hurts. Listen to how they speak: it will “protect” them, not it will “be used to protect”. It’s spoken of almost in the third person, and with expected deference from the audience. It’s no longer a tool but a very real presence they insist you acknowledge.

    A gun owner understand this object is just an object / tool and can be reasoned with about it’s use and ownership even if the argument isn’t always logical. A gun nut thinks he’s carrying the physical embodiment of freedom and a right from God, values it more then innocent lives and *will* let you know that you are superfluous to the gun’s right to exist.




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  33. Mikey says:

    @KM:

    A gun nut thinks he’s carrying the physical embodiment of freedom and a right from God, values it more then innocent lives and *will* let you know that you are superfluous to the gun’s right to exist.

    This was written in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, but it remains all too relevant today, to America’s shame.

    Our Moloch

    The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?




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