Last weekend, as mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton reminded Americans of this year’s increase in gun violence, gun control once more emerged as a possible key issue in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll – but mainly for Democrats.
Nearly three in four Democrats had always claimed gun control was a “very important” issue to them (71 percent said this last weekend, 74 percent this weekend), but the share of Democrats describing it as the most important issue has doubled.
The share of Independents citing gun control has also risen.
Health care remains Democrats’ most important issue, while the Republicans focus more on immigration. Independents are as likely to cite each of those two issues as their dominant concern.
More than half the public says gun control is a very important issue, including half of Independents and 42 percent of Republicans, and most of those who call it a very important issue don’t personally own guns.
Gun ownership is regional and partisan. Only one in 10 adults in the Northeast say they personally own a gun (nearly two thirds there say there are no guns in their households). In other parts of the country one in four adults personally own a gun. Almost twice as many men (31%) as women (17%) have their own firearms.
The partisan difference is also dramatic. More than a third of Republicans (36%) say they own a gun, compared with only 16 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of independents.
The poll was conducted after the shootings in El Paso, and was in the field during and after those in Dayton.
Nine in 10 respondents had heard about the El Paso deaths. But completely different partisan reactions emerge when it comes to what should happen now – as there have been for a long time. Eight in 10 Democrats support stricter gun laws at least for handguns; only a third of Republicans do.
Even more striking, perhaps, is the result of two Huffington Post/YouGov Polls conducted on Saturday and Sunday that found half the public overall says that Congress should act to reduce mass shootings. A third thought legislation could not reduce mass shootings. Republicans were the most fatalistic: more than six in 10 Republicans believed legislation could not affect mass shootings.
The National Rifle Association divides the country, as it has before: as many have an unfavorable opinion of it as have a favorable one. Seven in 10 Republicans are positive, seven in 10 Democrats are not. By 67 percent to 27 percent, gun owners have a positive opinion of the NRA. Those who do not own a gun, even if there is one in their household, have an unfavorable opinion of the organization.
The combination of party identification and gun ownership reinforces favorable opinions of the NRA. Two-thirds of Republican gun owners have a very favorable opinion of the group. In addition, while more than a quarter of all gun owners express negative views of the organization, less than one in 10 GOP gun owners do.