Nearly 60% of registered voters think it’s at least somewhat important for lawmakers to pass stricter gun laws, a new Morning Consult/Politico poll found after a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York—even before another shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday further ramped up calls for Congress to pass gun control legislation.
The poll found a combined 59% think it’s important for elected leaders to “pass stricter gun control laws,” including 83% of Democrats, 52% of Independents and 37% of Republicans.
That includes 41% who believe it’s “very important” and 18% who think it’s “somewhat important,” while 13% said it’s “not too important” and 19% believe it’s “not important at all.”
A majority also want Congress to pass legislation that places “additional restrictions on gun ownership,” with 34% saying it should be a “top priority” for lawmakers and 22% believing it’s an “important” priority, but not a top one.
A 35% plurality said the most important thing the federal government should do to prevent mass shootings is passing stricter gun control laws, but that question was more divided—25% think it’s most important to “[prevent]
the spread of extremist ideologies,” and 23% want “more effective policing.”
That includes 54% of Democrats who think passing gun control laws is most effective (while 27% want to combat extremist ideologies), versus 31% of Independents and 17% of Republicans.
The House has passed two bills that would strengthen background check requirements for gun purchases, but they’re unlikely to clear the Senate, as Republican lawmakers and moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have opposed the measures.
The poll was conducted among 2,005 registered voters from May 20-22, which is after the shooting in Buffalo took place on May 14 but before the shooting in Uvalde on Tuesday.
Even as most voters said they want stricter gun control laws, 44% said they’d trust Republicans in Congress more to handle gun policy, versus 41% who said they’d trust Democrats. Only 75% of Democrats said they’d trust their own party more, while 84% of Republicans who said the same about the GOP. Independents were more evenly divided, with 34% trusting Democrats, 37% trusting Republicans and 29% having no opinion.
What We Don’t Know
Whether the shooting in Uvalde, which killed at least 19 children and two adults, will move the needle further on support for gun control measures, since the poll was conducted before that shooting. Recent polling from Gallup, Pew Research and Quinnipiac University from late 2021 found the share of Americans who want stricter gun laws has actually declined as compared with previous years. Those polls found lower levels of support than the Morning Consult/Politico poll, suggesting the renewed focus on gun control could cause support to go up again.
What To Watch For
What Congress will do next. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that he wouldn’t force a vote on the bills to expand background checks for gun purchases, given the likelihood it will fail in the evenly-divided Senate. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has also said he is opposed to abolishing the filibuster to pass gun control measures. Instead, Schumer said Wednesday he wants to give colleagues like Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) a chance to put together bipartisan legislation with Republicans that might have a better chance of getting through. It’s still unclear what that legislation could look like, given GOP lawmakers’ opposition to stricter gun control rules, but the Hill notes it could include more narrow background check measures or “red flag” measures that make it easier to take firearms away from people when they pose a greater danger.
“Americans can cast their vote in November for senators or members of Congress that reflect how he or she stands with guns,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “In the meantime, my Republican colleagues can work with us now. I know this is a slim prospect, very slim, all too slim. We’ve been burnt so many times before. But this is so important.”
Approximately 200 mass shootings have taken place in the U.S. so far this year, and the shootings in Buffalo—which killed 10 people—and Uvalde are part of a string of shootings over the past few weeks that also includes a mass shooting at a church in Laguna Woods, California. While recent polls from fall 2021 have found slightly more than half of Americans broadly favor stricter gun rules, more specific gun proposals have typically garnered higher support with the public. Pew found in April 2021 that 87% favor preventing people with mental illness from purchasing guns, 81% support expanding background checks to include private gun sales, 64% back banning high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition and 63% want to ban all assault-style weapons.
Key facts about Americans and guns (Pew Research Center)