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Opinion Research After Tragedy: Should Gun Control Really Be That Polarizing?

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What does the opinion research really say about gun control? Is reaching a happy medium really that impossible?

Not the way we’re interpreting the numbers between liberals and conservatives. Politicos take note: A surprising number of both liberals and conservatives agree with the “common sense regulations” that many politicians won’t even touch.

The massacres keep coming in a steady morbid march unseen among civilian populations anywhere else in the world. Horrific acts of gun violence, the most recent slaying 58 and hurting some 500 others in Las Vegas, capture the national psyche and torture the minds of everyday people praying their kid’s routine trip to the shopping mall (or school, or the movies, or a concert) doesn’t end in bloodshed.

The calls for gun control rang out, as they always do, immediately after Vegas. Most notably and predictably, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) - who survived being shot in the head by a madman in 2011 - joined fellow Dems pleading for gun control. So did Hillary Clinton, who was roundly blasted by the right for claiming the death toll would’ve been higher had the shooter used silencers - an NRA-sponsored bill to relax silencer restrictions was slated for vote in Congress that very week.

Don’t politicize the tragedy, argued one Fox News contributor. But it is politicized. It’s always been politicized. It’s politically charged. It has everything to do with how and why candidates at nearly every level get elected. So what does it mean for your political campaign? It means, hopefully, you stand on the correct side and, hopefully, your voter base knows it.

But do you truly know what they think? Let’s analyze the opinion research.

Gun Control and Opinion Research: A Matter of Perspective

One Fox News analyst said "the Founding Fathers didn't want every juiced-up psycho to have a machine gun collection" and argued that "an armed crowd" would have only made the Las Vegas massacre worse.

But gun owners have their reasons for joining the ranks of gun ownership. In a 2017 survey, our friends at Pew Research learned that of the 42% of U.S. adults who live in a gun-owning household:

  • 67% own for self defense
  • 38% for hunting
  • 30% for sport shooting
  • 13% for a gun collection
  • 8% for their job

Are there misconceptions in the gun control debate? Sure. Any time it arises after a horrific act of violence, the left generally begins calling for what they call “sensible gun legislation” and the right generally retorts that the government will “take your guns.”

In traditionally conservative districts, politicians often reserve a special place in their campaign platforms for the Second Amendment. The prevailing thought is large majority of their base will be concerned enough with gun rights in the interest of maintaining their arms for peaceful purposes, or that they’ll support their neighbors who do. Some of these same voters jealously guard their gun rights, for innocent-enough reasons, from paranoia that tyrannical governments will pry them away.

But exactly how strong is that fervor? Pew looked into the numbers between Trump and Clinton supporters during the 2016 election.

2016 Favor for Elements of Gun Policy

Background Checks for Private and Gun Show Sales

  • Trump supporters - 75%
  • Clinton supporters - 90%

Prevent People with Mental Illness from Purchasing Guns

  • Trump supporters - 82%
  • Clinton supporters - 83%

Barring Gun Purchases By People on the Federal No-Fly or Watch Lists

  • Trump supporters - 72%
  • Clinton supporters - 80%

Liberals and conservatives begin vehemently disagreeing only when the proposals grow more intrusive and prohibitive, according to Pew.

Creating a Federal Database to Track Gun Sales

  • Trump supporters - 46%
  • Clinton supporters - 85%

Ban on High-Capacity Ammo Clips

  • Trump supporters - 34%
  • Clinton supporters - 75%

Ban on Assault-Style Weapons

  • Trump supporters - 34%
  • Clinton supporters - 74%

Opinion Research on Gun Control: Partisans Stand Closer Than You Think

Use voter demographic opinion research to learn how your voter base truly feels. Many may fear intrusion and governmental overreach, but most favor common sense. In rural America, especially, the political risks may be highest of all, but a stance may eventually save lives.

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