After a summer capped by three horrific mass shootings—at a Walmart in El Paso, outside a bar in Dayton, and on the highways of Odessa and Midland, Texas—the American voter cannot and will not ignore our gun violence crisis. Ahead of the September presidential debate, gun violence was the top issue of interest for Democratic voters, and voters got what they wanted: Guns were the second-most talked about issue of the night.
Across the board, Americans express personal concern about gun violence, and they don’t want a gun violence epidemic to become the new normal. Recent polls clearly indicate that voters strongly support action to make the country safer.
MAJORITY OF AMERICANS SUPPORT STRICTER GUN LAWS
Support for gun safety reform remains as strong as ever. Polls continue to indicate that the majority of Americans want to see the passage of stricter laws.
- Quinnipiac (August 2019): 72% of voters say Congress needs to do more to prevent gun violence, including 50% of Republicans, 93% of Democrats, and 75% of Independents.
- Gallup (August 2019): Voters are increasingly unhappy with the status quo. The share of voters who report being very dissatisfied with American gun laws has almost doubled since 2008, from 21% to 40% in 2019.
- NBC News/Wall Street Journal (August 2019): Washington’s lack of action on gun safety has voters concerned. For the first time in at least four years, voters reported feeling more concerned about the government not doing enough to regulate access to firearms (50%) than the government going too far in restricting citizens’ gun rights (45%).
SUPPORT FOR THE NRA GOES FARTHER UNDERWATER
The NRA’s decision to tie itself to an unpopular president was bad enough. Then a series of internal scandals exposed the organization’s corporate leadership as obsessed with money and influence over anything else. Its support among Americans has plummeted because of NRA leaders’ focus on accumulating and maintaining power over keeping Americans safe.
- Gallup (September 2019): For only the second time in 30 years, the NRA’s favorability rating has dropped below 50%. 49% of Americans now have a positive opinion of the NRA, compared with 48% who view it negatively.
- Fox News (August 2019): 47% of voters reported having an unfavorable view of the NRA, while the percentage of voters reporting a favorable view fell to 42%.
IF YOU ARE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT, AMERICA WANTS YOUR GUN SAFETY PLAN
Americans of all ages are fed up with worrying about when gun violence will hurt their families, and they’re demanding that candidates running for president have a plan to address the problem on their first day in office.
- CNN (September 2019): 75% of voters say that gun policy will be either “extremely important” or “very important” in determining who to vote for for president. This is a huge leap from the 2008 election, when only 46% of voters gave gun policy the same weight.
- Morning Consult/Politico (September 2019): Ahead of the September Democratic presidential debate, 73% of Democratic voters said it was very important to hear from candidates about gun policy. This was an 11-point increase from the June debates.
AN INCREASING NUMBER OF AMERICANS ARE CONCERNED ABOUT GUN VIOLENCE
As American families send their kids back to active shooter drills and breaking news about deadly mass shootings, their concern about the problem continues to escalate.
- Gallup (September 2019): After the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, 48% of American adults said they were very or somewhat worried about themselves or someone in their family becoming a victim of a mass shooting. This represents a nearly 10-point rise in fear compared to after the Las Vegas and San Bernardino shootings.
- Reuters/Ipsos (August 2019): Americans are on edge about the next mass shooting—in fact, they’re expecting it. 78% of Americans said it was likely that a mass shooting would happen within the next three months after the El Paso and Dayton shootings. 49% of those thought it was highly likely.
- American Psychological Association/Harris Poll (August 2019): Anticipating the next mass shooting takes its toll. 79% of adults in the US report experiencing stress as a result of the possibility of a mass shooting. More than half of respondents reported feeling stressed about a mass shooting at a public event (53%), while half said they experienced stress at a mall, 42% at a school or university, and 38% at a movie theater.
Across the board, surveys continue to show overwhelming support—including among gun owners—for universal background checks. These results remind us that while the House made it a priority to pass a bipartisan background checks bill—and got it done—the Senate has refused to listen to the will of Americans and vote on this bill.
- Quinnipiac (August 2019): 93% of Americans support requiring background checks for all gun buyers—including 89% of Republicans, 97% of Democrats, and 94% of Independents. Even gun owners show high support for background checks, with 93% voicing support. These trends have not changed: Overall, requiring background checks on all gun buyers has consistently polled above 90% since 2016.
- NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll (September 2019): 83% of Americans believe that requiring background checks at gun shows or other private sales will make a difference when it comes to reducing gun violence.
- Washington Post/ABC News (September 2019): Broad support on both sides of the aisle was measured for expanding background checks to include all potential gun sales, Democrats 96% and Republicans 83%.
REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS SUPPORT STRONGER GUN LAWS
When it comes to public perceptions about certain legislative proposals to strengthen gun laws, voters across party lines are in agreement on major policy issues.
- NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist (September 2019): Policies such as background checks for gun shows and private sales (Democrats 95%, Republicans 72%), extreme risk protection orders (Democrats 93%, Republicans 57%), and licenses for gun purchases (Democrats 90%, Republicans 58%) receive majority support from both parties.
- Fox News (August 2019): While the president they elected for isn’t acting on guns, Trump voters aren’t immune from concern about America’s gun violence crisis. Trump voters are more afraid of mass shooters than a terrorist threat. And they support solutions: 90% of Trump voters support universal background checks, 75% support extreme risk laws, and nearly half—46%—support a ban on assault weapons.
VOTER CONFIDENCE IN WASHINGTON’S ABILITY TO ACT IS LOW
While the House of Representatives has followed through on its commitment to passing stronger gun laws, voters have little faith that this Senate and White House will do anything to address the problem.
- Washington Post (September 2019): President Trump is in bed with the gun lobby, and American voters know it. 51% of Americans say they trust Congressional Democrats most to handle gun laws, compared with just 36% who trust President Trump.
- Fox News (August 2019): Divided government takes a toll: While 71% of voters think the federal government can do something to reduce gun violence in this country, 42% think it is not at all likely that they will this year. 40% think the Trump administration has made the country less safe from a mass shooting by an American citizen, and 52% disapprove of how Trump has responded to mass shootings.
- Morning Consult/Politico (August 2019): Voters doubt that this Congress will cross the finish line on gun safety, with 52% of voters believing it is not likely that Congress will pass stricter gun control laws in the next year or so.
- Suffolk University/USA Today (August 2019): While 90% of voters support universal background check legislation—including 90% of gun-owning households—a whopping 68% of voters don’t believe Congress will pass any significant gun control legislation in the coming year.