MEMO: Polls Are Clear: Voters Want Stronger Gun Safety Laws


To   Interested Parties
From   Katie Peters, Giffords Communications Director
Date   March 8, 2018
Re   Three Weeks After Parkland, Polls Are Clear: Voters Want Stronger Gun Safety Laws

In the three weeks since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School claimed the lives of 17 victims, a widespread public plea to enact stronger gun safety legislation has captured the nation’s attention. Engaged voters, high school students, and gun owners alike are calling upon legislators to pass laws to stop the epidemic of gun violence and keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of violent individuals.

As a series of new polls make clear—American voters across the political spectrum want stronger gun laws, and gun violence prevention is likely to become one of the defining issues in the midterm elections in November.

Late last month, Giffords launched the #VoteCourage campaign focused on defeating politicians who, for years, have refused to pass any gun violence prevention legislation. The campaign will work to bring leaders to Congress who have pledged to support bills that will address the country’s gun violence epidemic. As part of the new effort for 2018, Giffords will maintain a public priority list of elected officials to unseat.

Below is a summary of recent trends in polls taken post-Parkland:

1. Support for Stronger Laws Growing

Trends across multiple polls released one week after the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, demonstrate that more American voters—including gun owners— than ever before are supporting stricter gun laws. While support has been growing in the wake of recent mass shootings, the polls show a marked uptick in support following the February 14th tragedy in Florida. In fact, a Quinnipiac poll found support for stricter gun laws at the highest level of support ever measured by the group (66%)and POLITICO/Morning Consult found that the percentage of Americans who want more restrictive gun laws (68%) is greater now than after any other recent shooting.

  • Quinnipiac: 19-point increase in support of stricter gun laws

    • 66% of American support stricter gun laws, the highest level of support ever measured by the independent Quinnipiac University National Poll, up from 47% in December 2015:

      • 50% support among gun owners

      • 62% support from white voters with no college degree

      • 58% percent support among white men.

  • CNN/ SSRS: 18-point increase

    • 70% of Americans support stricter gun laws, up from 52% in October 2017 (following Las Vegas mass shooting)

  • USA Today/Suffolk University: 18-point increase

    • 70% of Americans support stricter gun laws, up from 52% in October 2017 (following Las Vegas mass shooting)

      • 57% of those living in gun-owning households support stricter gun laws, as well as majorities across gender, race and age categories.

      • Nearly all Democrats (93%) back stricter laws

      • Majority of independents (64%) and a plurality of Republicans (49%) back stricter laws.

  • CBS News: 8-point increase in support of stricter gun laws

    • 65% of Americans support stricter gun laws on gun sales, up from 57% in December 2017.

    • The rise has been primarily among republicans and independents, with a large increase among Republicans.

  • Marist: 7-point increase in support of stricter gun laws

    • 71% of Americans support stricter gun laws, up from 64% in October 2017

      • This includes 58% of gun owners

  • POLITICO/Morning Consult: 4-point increase

    • 68% of registered voters support stricter gun laws, up from 64% in October 2017 (following Las Vegas mass shooting) 60% in November 2017 (following Sutherland Springs mass shooting) and 58% in September 2016 (following the Pulse nightclub shooting) and 64%

2. Renewed Calls for Banning Assault Weapons, Bump Stocks, and High-Capacity Magazines

Polls also found Americans view assault rifles negatively and a majority of Americans say assault rifles and accessories, like the AR-15 weapon used to gun-down the Florida students and the bump stocks used against Las Vegas concert victims, should be banned.

Ban Assault Weapons

  • 68% support banning assault-style weapons (POLITICO/Morning Consult)

  • 67% support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons (Quinnipiac)

  • 63% support a ban on semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15. (USA Today/Suffolk University)

  • 57% support a ban on the manufacture, sale and possession of rifles capable of semi-automatic fire, such as the AR-15 (up from 49% in October). (CNN/ SSRS)

  • 53% support a nationwide ban on AR-15 semi-automatic weapons (CBS News)

Ban Bump Stocks and High-Capacity Magazines

  • 77% support a ban on bump stocks, 70% support banning high-capacity magazines (POLITICO/Morning Consult)

  • 63% support a ban on the sale and possession of high-capacity or extended ammunition magazines (up from 54% in October, a new high in CNN polling). (CNN/ SSRS)

  • 56% favor a ban on bump stocks or other equipment that can make a semi-automatic fire like an automatic gun. (CBS News)

3. Need for Restrictions on Firearm Purchases

Americans also believe firearm purchases should be better regulated. From mandatory waiting periods to age restrictions for purchasing firearms, polls taken after Parkland show that Americans consistently support more restrictions on buying guns.

Firearm Sales Need to be Stricter

  • 71% of Americans, including 58% of gun owners, agree the laws governing the sale of firearms need to be stricter This is up from 64% in October 2017. (Marist)

  • 67% of voters say it is too easy to buy a gun in the U.S. today. (Quinnipiac)

  • 43% of Republicans think laws covering gun sales should be stricter, compared to 29% in December. (CBS News)

Voters Want a Mandatory Waiting Period for All Gun Purchases

Clear Support for Restricting Access to Guns for Certain Groups

  • 87% of Americans back laws to prevent convicted felons and those with mental health problems from owning guns. (CNN/ SSRS)

  • 84% back preventing sales of firearms to people who have been convicted of violent misdemeanors. (POLITICO/Morning Consult)

  • 82% think the age limit should be 21 years old to purchase an assault-style weapon, and 81% support requiring purchasers of all firearms to be 21 years old. (POLITICO/Morning Consult)

  • 76% say people who have been treated for mental illness should be banned from owning a firearm. (USA Today/Suffolk University)

  • 71% support preventing people under age 21 from buying any type of gun. (CNN/ SSRS)

Overwhelming Support for Background Checks

4. Shifts in the Political Landscape

In the wake of the Parkland shooting, polls have shown that voters are more engaged and motivated by the need for gun safety. Voters agree that Congress needs to do more to address the problem of gun violence, yet few have confidence Congress will enact gun safety legislation. In addition, more Americans view the NRA as having too much influence. In fact, a CNN/ SSRS poll found that 49% of Americans view the NRA unfavorably—the worst rating for the organization in CNN trends in over 20 years. These shifts in the political landscape are likely to impact key districts in the 2018 midterm elections.

Americans have turned against the NRA

  • 49% have an unfavorable view of the NRA – the worst rating for the organization in CNN trends since 1995. Those with a “very unfavorable” view outweigh those with a “very favorable” one by a 31% to 21% margin. (CNN/ SSRS)

    • 46%, say they have a favorable view

  • Nearly half of Americans (46%) feel the NRA has too much influence today. (CBS News)

    • 15% thinks the NRA has too little and 32% thinks the right amount of influence.

  • 51% of voters say they would definitely or probably vote against a congressional candidate who receives campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association. (Marist)

    • 37% of voters say they would probably or definitely vote for a candidate who accepts campaign donations from the NRA.

    • NRA contributions to candidates are particularly concerning to African American voters (74%), Latino voters (54%), women (61%), and voters who live in the suburbs (62%), or urban areas (61%).

Where a Candidate Stands on Guns Will Matter

  • Most registered voters (85%) say a candidate’s position on gun legislation will influence their vote. (Marist)

    • 59% say a candidate’s stance on the issue will be a major factor.

    • 77% who say a candidate’s position on gun policy will have a major influence on their vote believe gun laws need to be strengthened.

    • Women (66%) are more likely than men (51%) to say gun policy plays a key role in their vote.