Voters Reject Ties Between Political Rhetoric And Arizona Shootings

Another poll tending to prove that, this time at least, the public is smarter than the pundits:

Americans have closely followed news stories about the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the killing of six others in Arizona on Saturday, and most don’t feel politics was the cause of it.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 28% of Adults say the shooting in Arizona was the result of political anger in the country. Fifty-eight percent (58%) say instead that it was a random act of violence by an unstable person. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Republicans and 56% of adults not affiliated with either of the major political parties view the shooting as a random act of violence. Even Democrats by a 48% to 37% margin agree, although leading members of their party have attributed the shootings to a climate of anger they say has been generated by opponents of President Obama.

In a separate survey taken following the weekend shootings, 45% of Likely U.S. Voters said they are at least somewhat concerned that those opposed to the president’s policies will resort to violence, but 52% do not share that concern.

That’s not going to stop us from having yet another pointless conversation about “rhetoric,” though.

FILED UNDER: Public Opinion Polls, Quick Takes, 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 for too young in July 2021.


  1. Axel Edgren says:

    Instrumental? No.
    A factor? Yes.

    I posit: If Palin, Beck, Inhofe, Bachmann, Angle had used the kind of rhetoric Obama uses, Tuscon would not have happened.

    Once you stop thinking in dualities (like most people of low intellects) you will realize I am right on this.

    Those who are more responsible than others for creating a cultural atmosphere where a judge and congresswoman who are ideologically contested get shot are clustered on the right. I don’t think the question captures this nuance, because it is a limited question for a limited people.

    But, I am guessing it will take a few more deaths for the Teepers and their useful idiots and sycophants to see the light. You can’t double down forever until you start suffering marketing problems, which is everything that counts to you.

    Mataconis, what will it take for you to stop doing whitewashing and legitimacy labor for the far-right flank that is dominating the neo-confederate party? When will you realize that extremism and dehumanizing, desensitizing and escalating language does not correlate negatively with influence, attention and deference among the right?

    Which side is more politically and culturally extreme and aggressive, Doug? This is not a black-white question, so while it is more difficult to answer fairly, it is not something you have to take a far leap on. I think you owe it to us to make a simple statement here, so we now how brave you are.

  2. Jack says:

    Doug, these repeated posts seem to indicate that you are saying “since there is no direct or even arguably indirect tie between the terrorism in Tucson and the dehumanizing, hateful words and images from the right, then the use of those words and images are OK.”

    If that is NOT the impression you wish to give, perhaps you should say that it is acceptable to use this tragedy as a starting point for discussion, rather than continually appearing to dismiss any discussion of it out of hand as some kind of attempt at partisan leveraging.

    Or is it that you feel the dehumanization and demonization of political opponents is acceptable? It is difficult to tell from the series of posts today. Note that the statements of the local law enforcement in the immediate aftermath of the attack did NOT point fingers at any group, but instead said that the atmosphere of hate is not helpful. Yet somehow that was interpreted as “partisan” by those on the right. Why? No names were called, no direct accusations made other than on the atmosphere as a whole.

    I am having a difficult time with the reaction from those on the right to dismiss even discussing how demonization and dehumanization may be “unhelpful”…

  3. Axel Edgren says:

    I wonder if Doug is capable of understanding that he is not capable of separating “Dems crassly using a tragedy against enemies” and “Dems trying to prevent the creation of another situation where someone tries to kill them”.

    Once again, I see the simple, the low and the common thinking solely in dualities and dichotomies, never trying to apply judgment or weighing.

  4. PJ says:

    The fact that Rasmussen are using a likely voter screen 22 months before the next election says everything you ever need to know about them and their polls.

  5. sam says:

    “Americans have closely followed news stories about the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the killing of six others in Arizona on Saturday, and most don’t feel politics was the cause of it.”

    They’re right, of course, it wasn’t. One should not infer from this, though, and other polls showing the same thing, that the public is happy with our political rhetoric. Polls have shown that the voting public wants its elected officials to work together. Inflammatory rhetoric counts as a marker for an unwillingness to cooperate, and I’m pretty sure the public is not happy with either.

  6. Axel Edgren says:

    “The fact that Rasmussen are using a likely voter screen 22 months before the next election says everything you ever need to know about them and their polls.”

    It is against the rules to hold right-wingers to responsibility for past failures.

    Remember: If climate scientists are wrong once they are wrong forever.

    If climate deniers like CATO are shown to have made up polls or roll calls to imply scientists are divided on the issue, then bringing that up is just smearing and trying to silence a brave free-thinker.

    Don’t EVER let me see you imply that right-wingers lose credibility or authority when they are shown as being deceitful or stupid again, YOU HEAR ME? You libelous, under-handed scumbag!

  7. michael reynolds says:

    Just today James denied to me that anyone at OTB was saying we shouldn’t talk about violent rhetoric. I cited two of your statements and he has not yet responded. And here you go again. And using a Rasmussen poll? Don’t make me laugh.

    You’re wrong about this. It’s that simple.

    I’ll repeat what I’ve said before: few of us are making the argument that there’s some 1+1=2 causality here. We’re saying that in a country where dire, apocalyptic, violent rhetoric pours forth from the right wing of the GOP:

    1) A causality will be seen even in cases where there is none, and that in itself is destabilizing.

    2) This kind of gun-centric, dehumanizing rhetoric increases the pool of potentially violent nuts by offering them a target and a self-justifying rationale.

    3) Ii is simply wrong and unhelpful to dehumanize and delegitimize your political opponents, regardless of this particular episode.

    4) This rhetoric is a threat against liberals and threats are not acceptable. I would add that it is a deliberate threat, political bullying and intimidation.

    5) We have a right to talk about the role of guns, and the role of the GOP cult of the gun, and the connection between conservative gun fetishization and this gun crime in the gun-loving state of Arizona.

    Even Roger Ailes seems worried about this violent right-wing rhetoric. But you aren’t. You’re smarter than this. You’re wrong and rather than doubling down you should be joining this necessary conversation and adding your customary insight and intelligence.

  8. Herb says:

    “You’re smarter than this. You’re wrong and rather than doubling down”

    I agree…It’s been a bit disappointing to see Doug react to this so fervently. Sorry, Doug, but I kind of expected some dispassionate lawyerly insights rather than this knee-jerk “the media is being mean to righties” stuff.

    As to the poll itself, I’m not going to harp on Rasmussen. They’re biased as hell, but that’s not my problem with the poll. Take a look at this:

    “Fifty-eight percent (58%) say instead that it was a random act of violence by an unstable person.”

    In other words, 58% of respondents do not have a factual grasp of what happened. This was a deliberately planned and executed assassination attempt. What was “random” about it?

    Sad to say it, but this poll doesn’t prove “voters reject ties between political rhetoric and Arizona shootings.” It just proves that 58% of the respondents don’t know what they’re talking about.

  9. Herb says:

    Actually, I amend my last comment: Rasmussen didn’t give people much choice. The survey’s wording:

    “Was the recent shooting in Arizona the result of political anger in the country or was it just a random act of violence by an unstable person?”

    A push-poll? Looks like it.

  10. Axel Edgren says:

    Yeah, I’m not talking about the shooting being a *result*. I am simply saying the GOP have increased the chances that loons will see democrats as the source of all ills and a bunch of alien monsters.

    In the same sense that Tom Cruise increases the chances that some random maniac will see psychiatrists as a threat to the human species.

    It’s not about being directly culpable, but about being irresponsible and cavalier about the effects your words have on the somewhat sane and the medically insane.