November 13, 2017—As Virginia elected Ralph Northam as governor and Democrats swept statewide races, making unprecedented gains in the House of Delegates, a new public opinion survey found that voters across the state gave the winning edge to candidates who led on a platform of gun safety and made clear they would stand up to the gun lobby. The research details that gun violence was a key factor for voters as they made their final decision.
In Virginia, 80% of respondents to the poll said that the issue of guns was very or somewhat important to them when deciding who to vote for. It also found that a majority of Virginia voters said they trusted the Democratic Party more on guns. Public Policy Polling surveyed 622 Virginia voters from November 8–9, 2017. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.9%. This poll was conducted by automated telephone interviews.
“It’s simple, Virginia voters want action on gun safety laws,” said Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords. “Virginians, including gun owners, responded positively to Governor-elect Northam because he pledged to show the courage and leadership to protect communities from the American epidemic of gun violence. They don’t want to see lawmakers back the gun lobby’s attempts to pass a dangerous agenda that would put more Americans in the line of fire. These results prove that next year, from coast to coast, candidates should pay attention to how showing courage and pledging action on gun safety led to victory in Virginia.”
Giffords supported the winning campaigns of Governor-elect Northam, Lieutenant Governor-elect Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, and 13 candidates for the House of Delegates. Of those 16 Giffords-backed candidates, 15 won, including seven who defeated incumbents. The final House of Delegates race has gone to a re-count.
The results of the poll can be found here.
A memo detailing the findings can be found here.
Key findings from the survey include:
80 percent of voters said gun policy was important in informing their vote choice (45% very important, 35% somewhat important), including 89% of Democrats and 75% of Republicans. Of people who said it was “very important,” 50% voted for Northam and 50% voted for Gillespie, further proving that the intensity gap has closed. Of those who said it was “somewhat important,” 61% voted for Northam and 38% voted for Gillespie.
Virginia voters believe our nation’s gun laws should be stronger. 60 percent of voters said they thought gun laws in America should be stronger, compared to 13% who thought they should be less strong and 26% who thought they should be kept the same.
Voters were well-informed when it came to Northam and Gillespie’s positions on guns. 84 percent of voters said they are very or somewhat familiar with Northam’s position on guns, while 86% said they were very or somewhat familiar with Gillespie’s position on guns. 89 percent of Democrats and 87% of Republicans say they were familiar with Northam’s positions on guns, and 78% of Democrats and 96% of Republicans were familiar with Gillespie’s positions on guns.
During the election, voters heard more about Gillespie’s position on guns—36% said they’d heard a lot and 48% a little. That’s in comparison to 27% who said they’d heard a lot and 55% who said they’d heard a little on Northam’s position on guns. In the closing weeks of the campaign Giffords PAC sent a letter from former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on the issue that reached 165,596 Virginia households. A complementary digital program also targeted 25,000 persuadable voters. In addition, Mark Kelly went to Virginia five days after the worst shooting in American history to demand Ed Gillespie release his NRA questionnaire. One week before the election, Giffords also released a radio ad featuring former President Obama that highlighted the difference between the two candidates on guns.
Voters trust Democrats over Republicans when it comes to the issue of guns. 53 percent of voters said they trust the Democrats more when it comes to the issue of guns, including 16% of Republican voters, compared to only 43% of voters who say they trust Republicans more. Among Democrats, 92% say they trust the Democrats more, and only 4% say they trust Republicans more.
Political analysts, pollsters and reporters also took note of the victories in Virginia for candidates who ran on a gun safety platform. A new video also released today by Giffords highlights observations that gun safety is a winning issue.
Election Recap Memo: The morning after election day, Giffords released a full review of why voters responded to gun safety and how the organization impacted the debate. Read the full review.
Statement: Gabby Giffords reacts to a victorious night in Virginia for gun safety champions. Read Gabby’s statement.
Giffords is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives from gun violence. Led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, Giffords inspires the courage of people from all walks of life to make America safer.