Americans think Congress is unlikely to pass new gun control laws

Linley SandersData Journalist
Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
June 03, 2022, 8:17 PM GMT+0

In response to the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, Democrats in Congress are expected to propose new legislation to restrict gun access. Many Americans do not expect Congress to pass bills to expand gun control: The latest Economist/YouGov poll shows that 43% say it is either unlikely or definitely will not happen.

The survey, which was fielded from May 28 - 31, shows that Democrats (49%) and Republicans (38%) share a similar perspective: that Congress is unlikely to pass legislation around gun control.

Though many Americans consider it unlikely, a small majority do want stricter gun laws. This week, 53% said they want to make laws covering the sale of handguns more strict, up from 45% in a mid-April survey, fielded just after the shooting on a subway in Brooklyn, NY. There is a 13-point increase in support from women, but hardly any shift (+3) from men. Republican support for stricter gun laws jumped 10 points (from 20% to 30%); Democratic support was already high and rose 4 points, from 72% to 76%.

Besides the rise in support of stricter laws, Americans are more likely today than in April to think that stricter laws could have prevented recent shootings. Just 29% in mid-April thought stricter laws would have helped; now 41% do. Large partisan and gender differences remain, however. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Democrats say tougher laws could have prevented shootings (up 11 points from April). Just one in five Republicans do, but that is also up 11 points.

There is broad support from Americans for other gun-control policies, including preventing people with a history of mental illness from owning guns (79%), requiring criminal and mental background checks for all those buying guns (75%), and stationing armed guards at all schools (62%). Republicans and Democrats are in agreement on a few items, including preventing people with a history of mental illness from owning guns, funding the study of mental health and gun violence, background checks for all weapons purchases, and a five-day waiting period after purchasing a gun.

Republicans oppose many other gun-law changes, such as outlawing concealed carry of weapons and banning semi-automatic weapons. They divide evenly on establishing a national gun registry. The parties are far apart when it comes to armed guards in all schools and arming teachers.

Following the Uvalde shooting, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the shooter had a “mental health challenge” and has focused his response on school safety and mental health, rather than restrictions on gun laws. More Americans agree (51%) than disagree (41%) that school shootings are a mental-health problem, not a gun problem.

This poll was conducted on May 28 - 31, 2022, among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this Economist/YouGov poll