Survey of 38, largely Republican-held battleground districts show that making a race about gun safety can increase Democrats’ advantage
Results also show that the National Rifle Association is increasingly out of step with Americans
June 19, 2018 — New public opinion survey data released today shows that gun safety is a winning issue in districts key to determining control of the House of Representatives. Released today by Giffords, the gun violence prevention group co-founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Captain Mark Kelly, the poll looks into 38 battleground districts that are largely Republican-held. The results prove that embracing gun safety could be the difference-maker for Democrats in key swing districts, particularly because support for stronger gun laws remains high and the National Rifle Association’s favorability is on a downward trend.
“An unprecedented number of voters are expressing outrage and frustration about the deafening silence on Capitol Hill when it comes to addressing America’s gun violence crisis, and the implications couldn’t be more clear for candidates still opposed to gun safety reform” said Peter Ambler, Executive Director of Giffords. “ Just a few years ago, many would consider campaigning on a gun safety platform to be considered politically risky, but the results of this new research prove once and for all that that chapter in the history of the gun violence prevention movement has closed. The threat of gun violence is a top concern for voters this year and candidates should expect to be pushed on their plans to better protect the communities they wish to represent. Calling for action to save lives from gun violence on the campaign trail is now a critical step on the path to victory in November.”
In the Republican-leaning districts highlighted in the survey, Democrats lead in the generic ballot jumps from 3 points to 10 points when the debate on gun violence prevention is added in.
Additional Key Takeaways:
- Voters across ideologies support stronger gun laws. 65 percent support stronger gun laws and 48 percent of voters have become more supporter of stronger gun laws over the past few years.
- Congress should act to prevent gun violence. 63 percent of voters are more concerned about Congress not doing anything to address gun violence. Only 37 percent are more concerned about Congress going too far in restricting access to guns.
- Support for the NRA is spiraling downward. The NRA’s favorability is 19 points underwater with voters overall (37 percent favorable/56 percent unfavorable), and 40 points underwater among Independents (25 percent favorable/65 percent unfavorable). Even in Republican-leaning districts, voters increasingly see the organization as yet another special interest group with too much influence over elected officials.
- Voters have become more likely to consider a candidate’s position on guns when deciding who to vote for. 62 percent are more likely to consider a candidate’s position, and among the two thirds of voters who support stronger gun laws, 70 percent are more likely to consider a candidate’s stance on guns.
- Attacking candidates for their failure to act on the issue is a sound strategy. A gun message connecting a generic Republican’s inaction with their NRA allegiance raises doubts about the candidate with 52 percent of voters. This messaging is more potent than any other message tested, including taxes, Social Security, health care, and being a Trump ally.
Background on Giffords’ Political Program
The initial step to the political program this year began in the hours after the Parkland shooting, when Giffords used #VoteCourage to get people to pledge to support candidates in November who will stand up to the gun lobby and fight for safer communities. In less than a week more than 450,000 Americans took the pledge.
Following the #VoteCourage pledge, Giffords began this ongoing, robust political program to shine a light on incumbents’ record of prioritizing the interests of the gun industry over public safety. It is encouraging voters to support candidates with the courage to stand up to the gun lobby. Along with the digital advertisements going out today and the website database the program will include TV advertising, on-the-ground organizing and events, and a voter registration push.
Giffords launched a partnership with NextGen America and Everytown for Gun safety on a voter registration effort that is committing an initial $1.5 million to seek to get up to 50,000 Americans aged 18-19 registered for the midterm elections. In 2017, Giffords launched its candidate training program to help educate candidates who want to run on a gun safety platform and plans to expand the program in 2018.
The mass shooting at Parkland, in Florida, crystallized the country’s frustration with the lack of any action to pass gun safety laws. Gun death rates have climbed to levels not seen in decades. Currently, the country is averaging nearly 34,000 deaths from guns every year, and recent polling shows that support for stronger gun laws is at an all-time high.
Last November saw gun safety champions win commandingly across the country – from statewide races in Virginia and New Jersey to a key state senate seat in Washington state. The elections sparked what has become known as the suburban rebellion in the districts that will matter to who will have control of Congress next year.
In 2016, Giffords flagship program was in the US Senate race in New Hampshire, where it invested $2.6 million in a targeted campaign to defeat incumbent Senator Kelly Ayotte by reminding voters of her vote against universal background checks, making the race a referendum on gun violence prevention.
Suburban voters overwhelmingly support safer gun laws, making most Republican incumbents in suburban districts out-of-step with their voters on the issue. Two bills to further regulate or ban the sale of bump stocks that were introduced in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting have a combined 15 Republican co-sponsors, all of whom represent politically vulnerable districts. This is a sign that House Republicans understand that opposing reasonable gun safety measures could be a political liability in 2018.