More than half of Americans support stricter gun laws

Oana DumitruSurvey Data Journalism Intern
July 12, 2022, 3:22 PM GMT+0

The latest Economist/YouGov Poll, conducted in the days before and after the Fourth of July shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, shows that almost two-thirds of Americans think that the country is off on the wrong track on the issue of guns, with a similar share of Democrats (68%), Republicans (62%), and Independents (62%) agreeing.

Consistent with other recent polls, more Americans want stricter gun laws than want less strict laws or no change. More than half of Americans (54%) want stricter gun laws, 25% want no change, and only 13% favor less strict gun laws.

However, the direction of gun legislation remains a partisan issue: While four in five Democrats (81%) support stricter laws covering the sale of handguns, only 27% of Republicans agree. Half of Independents also say that laws covering the sale of handguns should be more strict than they currently are.

Support for stricter gun laws also varies by gun ownership: Two-thirds of people living in gun-free households say they want stricter laws, while only about one-third of those who personally own a gun agree.

In the past month, the Supreme Court also released its decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen (NYSRPA v. Bruen). The case concerned a New York State law requiring residents to show “proper cause” to obtain an unrestricted license to carry a concealed weapon – in other words, to demonstrate a need that does not apply to the general public. The Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional and that public possession of weapons is a constitutional right under the Second Amendment.

Most Americans (61%) have heard at least a little about the ruling, and more Americans approve than disapprove of it, by 47% to 38%. Two-thirds (66%) of Democrats, but only 9% of Republicans, disapprove of the decision.

Americans narrowly favor preventing people from carrying a concealed handgun in public, by 46% to 44%. More than two-thirds (70%) of Democrats support this measure, while only 43% of Independents and 23% of Republicans agree. 

Four in five Americans at least somewhat favor enhanced background checks for prospective gun buyers under 21, including 86% of Democrats, 78% of Republicans, and 73% of Independents. Americans showed a similar pattern when asked about their support for expanding criminal and mental background checks for buying guns to include juvenile records: 80% were in support, including 86% of Democrats, 77% of Independents, and 77% of Republicans.

Do gun owners feel differently about these three gun-control measures than people who do not own guns? The answer depends on which gun-control measure we’re talking about. 

People who personally own a gun (32%) are less likely to support preventing gun owners from carrying a concealed gun in public, compared to people from gun-free households (57%) and people from households where someone else owns a gun (51%). But gun ownership seems to generate less of a divide when it comes to enhancing background checks: 86% of people from gun-free households and 77% of gun owners support enhanced background checks for gun buyers under 21. Similarly, 86% of people from gun-free households and 82% of gun owners support including juvenile records in criminal and mental background checks.

This poll was conducted on July 2 - 5, 2022 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this YouGov poll.

Image: Brandon Bell/Getty