POLITICS

Even Before Orlando Shooting, Most Americans Called Gun Violence A 'Very Serious' Problem

But support for stricter gun laws had dropped since last winter.
Anita Busch, who says her cousin Micayla Medek, 23, was killed in the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, attends a candleligh
Anita Busch, who says her cousin Micayla Medek, 23, was killed in the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, attends a candlelight vigil in West Hollywood, California, following the Orlando shooting.

Days before the nation's deadliest mass shooting to date, Americans were already deeply concerned about gun violence, according to a HuffPost/YouGov survey fielded just before the attacks in Orlando, Florida.

Polls are often conducted in response to current events, meaning that questions about guns are often asked in the immediate wake of widely-covered tragedies, when the issue is at the top of people's minds and emotions are running especially high.

Last week, HuffPost conducted a survey to see how opinion on gun control had stabilized in the absence of recent high-profile mass shootings. (That's not to say without violence. Among the fatal shootings to make headlines in the four days since the poll started running: a 22-year-old singer was killed after a concert in Orlando, seven people were killed in Chicago, and a man killed his wife and four daughters in New Mexico.)

Of the 1,000 people who took the survey, all but one completed it before the Orlando attack.

In many ways, the survey's results look similar to those conducted directly following tragedies, although they represent a modest ebb in support for gun control since the attacks in San Bernardino, California, in December. Americans are generally in favor of stricter gun policies, but unconvinced that there's the political will to pass new laws to implement them.

A 52-percent majority called gun violence a very serious problem, and 48 percent wanted stricter gun laws -- down 6 and 7 points since the San Bernardino shootings, respectively.

Twenty-six percent said in the latest poll that the laws shouldn't be changed, while 18 percent wanted laws that were less strict. The public was almost evenly divided whether it's politically possible to pass stricter gun laws, with 39 percent saying that it is, and 36 percent that it's not.

Thirty percent said that mass shootings are just a fact of life in the U.S, while 51 percent believed that the attacks can be stopped. After San Bernardino, 46 percent thought that new gun laws were a possibility, and 58 percent that mass shootings could be stopped. 

The survey also offers some hints about how the issue of gun violence could play out in the upcoming election. Forty-two percent of registered voters said they trusted the Republican Party more to handle issues related to guns, while 39 percent had more faith in the Democratic Party. But voters in both parties place about equal importance on the topic. Forty-four percent of Democratic voters, and 45 percent of Republican voters, say the issue will be very important to their vote.

Partisan divides over gun control have become increasingly stark in recent years. While less than a decade ago, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents were evenly split on whether gun rights or gun control was more important, the GOP has soured dramatically on gun control since President Barack Obama took office.

Seventy-six percent of Democrats and 42 percent of independents, but just 17 percent of Republicans, favored stricter guns laws, the survey found. Democrats were 39 points likelier than Republicans to call gun violence a very serious problem.

While Democratic beliefs have remained relatively stable in recent HuffPost/YouGov polls, the level of Republican support was dramatically lower in the latest survey. That 17 percent support among Republicans is down from 26 percent after the San Bernardino shootings, and 27 percent after last year's fatal shooting of two journalists on live television.

The survey results can't predict how people will react to a shooting that, even against a grim tapestry of precedent, remains remarkable for its scope -- or how much of an effect on public policy or the presidential election a shift in opinion will even have. Support for gun control spiked after the Newtown shootings and, to a lesser extent, after the San Bernardino attacks, but soon faded away, while other attacks have failed to provoke as much response.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted June 9 through June 12 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls.You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be foundhere. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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