After the Nashville shooting, many more Democrats view the issue of guns as very important

Linley SandersData Journalist
April 06, 2023, 6:52 PM GMT+0

On March 27, a shooter killed three children and three adults at a Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee. An Economist/YouGov poll conducted April 1 - 4 finds a shift in Americans' opinion on gun control and access in the week after the shooting.

This week, 60% of Americans say the issue of "guns" is "very important" to them (up 7 percentage points in the last week from 53%). Nearly all of that increase is from Democrats, 72% of whom now say the issue of guns is very important to them, up 17 points since last week. There was no change among Republicans (54% this week and last week).

The Economist/YouGov poll asks this question weekly — so while some questions are only asked following widely publicized mass shootings and could be affected by that context, this one is asked regardless of the news of the week. It often finds a jump in the importance of the issue of guns to Americans after guns are mentioned in the news, not only because of mass shootings. For instance, in the first poll after the Supreme Court ruled on the case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen in July, there was a jump among the share of Democrats who called the issue of guns very important to them (to 70% from 58% in the prior week's poll).

Two in five Americans say preventing gun violence (40%) is more important than protecting the right of Americans to own guns (15%) — a new high in Economist/YouGov polls going back to 2017 for the share prioritizing preventing gun violence; 42% say gun rights and protecting people from gun violence are equally important.

President Joe Biden called for a federal assault weapons ban following the Nashville shooting.

Three in five Americans would support an assault-weapons ban, including 84% of Democrats and 58% of Independents. On this issue, a majority of Republicans disagree. They are more likely to oppose (52%) than support (42%) a ban on assault rifles. (The Nashville shooting suspect had two "assault-type guns," according to police.)

Majorities of both Democrats and Republicans favor preventing people who have a history of mental illness from owning guns (87% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans favor it), requiring criminal and background checks for all gun purchases (89% and 78%), and instituting red flag laws (90% and 62%).

The chaplain who leads prayers in the U.S. Senate, Barry C. Black, said after the shooting that "​​when babies die at a church school, it is time for us to move beyond thoughts and prayers." Most Americans — including majorities of Democrats and Republicans — agree with Black's remarks that “thoughts and prayers” are not enough.

There were several other statements made in the aftermath of the Nashville shooting that many Democrats and Republicans agree with when given the statement without the name of the person who made it. Majorities in both party agree with Representative Tim Burchett's comment that “criminals are going to be criminals”

Most Americans agree with President Joe Biden that Congress needs to act because "the majority of the American people think having assault weapons is bizarre … a crazy idea" (though half of Republicans disagree). But will Congress act? Sen. Mike Rounds said that the things that have been done on gun control have “gone about as far as we’re going to go.” Americans are as likely to agree with him as to disagree.

—Carl Bialik and Taylor Orth contributed to this article

Related: Gen Zers and Millennials are reshaping the party divide on guns

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on April 1 - 4, 2023 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to June 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (34% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty Images (Joe Raedle)

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