The Gun Control Debate: Americans Generally Like The NRA

February 01, 2013, 4:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 1/26/2013) Despite majority support for stricter gun control laws in general, and overwhelming support for some specific measures, the National Rifle Association may have at least a narrow advantage in the gun debate: more Americans continue to have a favorable view of the organization than an unfavorable one. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, 44% have a favorable view of the NRA, while 37% are unfavorable.

Groups with a negative view of the NRA are stronger supporters of gun control measures: 63% of Democrats have an unfavorable opinion of the gun rights group, as do 56% of African-Americans. Northeasterners are less likely than those in other regions to be favorable. Just under six out of ten college graduates are negative. So are nearly half of moderates and those under 30 years old. People in the West — residents of states no further east than Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico — are evenly divided. A majority of independents and 7% of Republicans view the NRA favorably. By 51% to 36%, men have a positive view of the NRA; women are evenly divided.

Another difference is between those who own guns and those who don’t. Gun ownership is low in the urban Northeast, and among those under 30. Republicans and independents are more than twice as likely as Democrats to own guns. A third of men say they personally own a gun, while just 13% of women do. But an additional 22% of women live in a household where someone else is a gun owner.

By 68% to 24%, those who own a gun view the NRA favorably; those with no gun in their household are unfavorable, though by just a ten-point margin (34% to 44%). Adults in gun owning households are positive—even though they do not own a gun themselves.

Since the December killings of 20 first graders and six adults at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., a majority of Americans have favored making gun control laws stricter. In this week’s poll, 52% are in favor of that. One in three wants no changes, and one in ten would loosen gun control laws.