No, really, Americans support gun control

12 polls since Newtown show a consistent pattern: Americans favor limited gun control

Topics: Guns, Polling, Gun Control, assault weapons ban, gun magazine,

No, really, Americans support gun control (Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi)

Another day, another poll showing a majority of Americans favor many of the proposed gun control measures being discussed in Congress right now. Today’s poll comes from the University of Connecticut and the Hartford Courant, which found that majorities of American nationally favor requiring background checks on all firearm purchases, thus closing the so-called gun show loophole (84 percent); support reinstating the ban on assault weapons (57 percent); and back banning the sale of high-capacity magazines (53 percent).

This poll is hardly an outlier. Since the Sandy Hook massacre, there have been a plethora of national polls showing Americans favor the kinds of limited gun control measures President Obama is pushing. Here are just a dozen:

  • Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health: A national survey of 2,703 respondents found 89 percent support universal background checks; 69 percent support banning the sale of semiautomatic assault weapons; 68 percent support banning the sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines.
  • Fox News: The conservative news network asked 1,008 registered voters about various policies, finding that 91 percent favored universal background checks on all gun purchases; 54 percent supported banning assault weapons; while 56 percent supported banning the sale of high-capacity magazines.
  • Gallup: 1,021 Americans were asked if they would want their member of Congress to vote for or against President Obama’s slate of favored gun legislation — 53 percent said “for,” 41 percent said “against.”
  • Gallup: A separate poll of 1,013 Americans were asked about specific gun policies. Ninety-one percent favored universal background checks; 60 percent favored reinstating the assault weapons ban; 54 percent favored prohibiting the sale of high-capacity magazines.
  • Pew: The organization asked 1,006 Americans if they thought “Obama’s proposals on guns go too far, not far enough or are about right.” While 31 percent said they went too far, 39 percent said they were about right and 13 percent said they didn’t go far enough. That gives Obama’s proposal a 21 point edge.
  • Washington Post/ABC News: Unlike most other polls, this survey of 1,001 adults found greater support for a ban on high-capacity magazines (65 percent) than reinstating the assault weapons ban (58 percent), though solid majorities supported both. Meanwhile, 88 percent supported universal background checks, and 71 percent supported the creation of a federal database to track gun sales.
  • Washington Post/ABC News: A separate poll of 1,033 Americans found that 53 percent had a “favorable” view of Obama’s gun control proposals, while 41 percent had an “unfavorable” view.

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  • CNN/ORC: A national poll of 602 Americans found that 95 percent favored universal background checks, while 62 percent favored a ban on the sale of both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
  • Public Religion Research Institute: The think tank asked 1,033 Americans if they favored “stricter gun control” — 36 percent strongly supported it, while 24 favored it. Just 14 percent opposed and 23 percent strongly opposed it, giving those who favor stricter laws a 23 point edge overall.
  • NBC News/Wall Street Journal: Asked 1,000 adults, “In general, do you feel that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now?” Fifty-six percent said “more strict,” while just 7 percent said they should be “less strict.”
  • New York Times/CBS News: The national poll of 1,110 Americans found that 92 percent favor universal background checks on all gun purchases; 58 percent favor a ban on assault weapons; and 63 percent favor a ban on high-capacity magazines.
  • AP/GfK: Of the 1,004 adults surveyed, 84 percent favored universal background checks for all gun sales, 55 percent favored a ban on “military-style” assault weapons, 51 percent favored a ban on high-capacity magazines.

There are others, but the pattern is pretty clear. Support for universal background checks on all gun sales is somewhere over 90 percent, an absurdly high number. It would be hard to find another proposal in any policy area that enjoys such strong support. The weakest number for universal background checks was 84 percent, from the AP and UConn polls, which is still astronomically high. And yet NRA head Wayne LaPierre suggested yesterday in his testimony before the Senate that his group opposes mandatory universal background checks.

Support for reinstating the assault rifle ban hovers somewhere in the mid 50s, while a ban on high-capacity magazines captures anywhere from 51 to 63 percent support, depending on the wording of the question. In all cases, numerous polls show that clear majorities favor the proposals.

Interestingly, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found that even Republicans favor many gun control proposals, but lose interest once they’re associated with President Obama. This will be tough to overcome, but it underscores the importance of communicating that these are mainstream proposals that enjoy massive support from Americans, not just liberals and the White House.

Alex Seitz-Wald
Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

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