Democrats back stricter gun control

October 15, 2015, 2:14 PM GMT+0

Most Democrats agree more with Clinton than Sanders when it comes to gun control

Gun laws – a topic which gains public attention after nearly every mass shooting – formed part of the debate Tuesday night as the Democratic presidential candidates met in Las Vegas. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chastised Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for his votes against some gun legislation, and positioned herself to his left on this issue. According to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, that is where most Democrats are when it comes to the question of gun control.

72% of Democrats want to make gun laws more strict than they are now, and 70% would ban assault weapons, positions also favored by just over half of the population overall. Sanders has supported the assault weapons ban, but was criticized for his votes against the Brady bill which mandated federal background checks for gun purchases, and for his support of legislation that protected gun owners from litigation over gun deaths.

Democrats are strongly in support of multiple gun control proposals. 86% favor a national gun control registry; more than two in three would limit the number of handguns someone can own. 69% would ban all semi-automatic weapons and 72% would ban magazines of more than ten rounds. Republicans are divided on a national gun registry, and oppose the other proposals.

There is more than party dividing opinion on gun control. While fewer than one in four adults say they personally own a gun, more than a third either own a gun or live in a household where someone else is a gun owner. Men are more likely than women to own a gun. Gun ownership is more than twice as high in rural areas as in cities – and Vermont is among the most rural of all U.S. states (in the 2010 Census only Maine ranked as more rural). Gun owners oppose nearly all types of gun regulation – with only a few exceptions.

Gun owners and non-owners, and Republicans and Democrats, agree on several questions about of who should have guns and how they should acquire them. There is overwhelming support for preventing those with a history of mental illness from owning guns, and for a five-days waiting period for gun purchases.

Just over half the public says that gun control is an issue that is very important to them. But just 4% say it is their most important issue. Women are more likely than men to say it is very important and Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say the same.

Many Americans want to both protect the right to own guns and protect the public from gun violence. And there has been little change in support for stricter hand gun regulation in recent years. In the year after the school shooting in Newtown, CT, support for stricter handgun laws rose to 50%, but it has not changed much since then.

Only one in ten today want to loosen handgun regulations, one of the lowest percentages ever.

See the Economist/YouGov results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.