Legislation on universal background checks remains overwhelmingly popular, while support has increased for having the CDC to study gun violence
Support for several – though by no means all – gun control measures has increased since last week’s shootings in Orlando, Florida. More than eight in ten in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll now favor criminal and mental background checks before guns can be purchased, two in three support a national gun registry, and for the first time in the poll half of the public would like the Centers for Disease Control to conduct research on gun violence.
Support for some of these measures was high in 2011, but dropped beginning in 2013. It has now risen again.
Although the Senate rejected increased background checks before gun purchases, mostly due to opposition from Republican Senators, this is a proposal on which there is only a small partisan difference. 89% of Democrats and 77% of Republicans favor expanding criminal and mental background checks to all gun purchases, including private sales and at gun shows.
By 54% to 37%, Republicans are also in favor of requiring gun owners to register their guns on a national registry. Two-thirds of Republicans now support a five-day waiting period. But the GOP and the Democrats part ways when it comes to the CDC conducting research on gun violence. Two-thirds of Democrats, but only a third of Republicans support that.
Most other gun control measures show the parties divided. Majorities of Democrats support bans on assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons, as well as on clips that fire more than ten rounds. Most Republicans do not. And for Democrats, gun control in general is a more important issue than it is for Republicans. 72% of Democrats say the issue is very important to them, compared with 44% of Republicans. But when it comes to voting, it may be becoming more important.
Concern about terrorism also rose after the Orlando attacks. It is a more important issue for Republican voters than for Democratic ones.
One gun control measure rejected by the Senate merged the two concerns – preventing people on the terrorist watch list from buying guns. And on this question, both Republicans and Democrats say they approve.
That question made it clear that the prohibition would be enforced even if there were no way to challenge placement on the terrorism watch list. In principle, Americans would prefer that there be some sort of recourse given to those put on the list. For example, more than two-thirds say that anyone placed on the watch list should be able to defend themselves in a legal proceeding in order to get off the list. About half think anyone placed on the watch list should be told they are on this list, and even more want people notified when they are removed from the list. And on these questions too, Democrats and Republicans agree.
There isn’t a lot of happiness with how party leaders responded to the Orlando attacks. Americans marginally approve of President Obama’s response, marginally disapprove of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s reaction, and are divided when it comes to how the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, reacted.
Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.