Most Americans Favor An Assault Weapons Ban

Democrats are overwhelmingly in favor and even Republicans are close to evenly split in a new HuffPost/YouGov poll.

Half of Americans say that members of Congress should take action to reduce mass shootings, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds, while just one-third say that shootings cannot be reduced through legislation. By an even broader margin, 60% to 25%, Americans say it’s possible to enact new gun regulations while still maintaining the right to bear arms.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said he saw “no political appetite” for a ban on assault-style weapons, but “a very strong appetite for background checks.” The HuffPost/YouGov poll, conducted days after mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, finds majority support for both ideas.

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Some 81% of Americans say they favor requiring background checks for gun buyers as part of an effort to stop mass shootings. Just 8% are opposed. A 59% majority say they favor banning “assault weapons,” with only about 23% opposed.

Background checks have overwhelming support among both Democrats (who back them 90% to 5%) and Republicans (who back them 83% to 9%).

HuffPost/YouGov survey

An assault weapons ban sees Democrats again overwhelmingly supportive (86% in favor, 9% opposed) and Republicans close to evenly divided (39% in favor, 42% opposed).

HuffPost/YouGov survey

Exact levels of support, of course, will vary with the framing of the questions used by the polls. But background checks are nearly universally popular, even in polls that aren’t taken in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting. And as The Washington Post’s polling director, Scott Clement, points out, most other polling in the past few years finds at least 50% support for banning assault-style weapons. (Another post-shooting poll, from Morning Consult, also found significant backing for a ban.)

In the HuffPost/YouGov survey, Americans also favor increased spending for the treatment of mental illness, by 74% to 8%. They favor implementing the death penalty for hate crimes and mass murders ― an idea Trump proposed ― by 62% to 19%. The only proposal tested that did not earn majority support was limiting violence in video games, a dubiously effective approach that polled at a more modest 43% in favor to 29% opposed.

Underlying all this agreement on specific gun policies, however, is a yawning partisan divide on how to approach the overall issue of gun violence, and even what level of concern it deserves. Democrats are 44 percentage points more likely than Republicans to call gun violence a “very serious” issue and 45 points more likely to say Congress should act.

Support for new gun policies is often heightened in the aftermath of high-profile incidents. Last year’s Parkland, Florida, school shooting, for instance, was followed by a rising appetite for gun control and a surging belief that a change was possible ― sentiments that, unusually, outlasted the immediate news cycle thanks to a wave of student activism. Within two months, however, much ― although not all ― of that had ebbed.

The ups and downs around mass shootings aside, as FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich notes, some polling also suggests that baseline support for gun control is rebounding. Gallup polling, for instance, finds that, even months after the Parkland shooting, about 61% of Americans supported stricter firearms laws, up from a nadir of 44% in 2010. Tracking data from the Democratic pollster Civiqs also finds that voters’ support for gun control is up nearly 10 points since 2015.

“Americans’ support for tougher gun legislation typically fluctuates, increasing in the wake of a mass shooting and dropping as memory of those horrific events fades,” Gallup’s RJ Reinhart wrote last October. “However, the broader recent trend has been an increase in support for tighter regulations.”

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Aug. 5-6 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.

HuffPost 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. 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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