Given the choice, a slim majority in U.S. now prefer new gun laws
Slightly fewer, 47%, favor stricter enforcement of current laws
Men and women, Republicans and Democrats on opposite sides of the issue
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the month between the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las
Vegas and the Nov. 5 mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Gallup
found that 51% of Americans prefer the government pass new gun laws rather
than focus only on enforcing the current laws more strictly. This compares
with 47% support in Gallup's previous measure in 2012, and it is the
first time that a majority of Americans have favored passing new gun laws
since Gallup first asked this question in 2000.
The latest data come from Gallup's annual Crime poll, conducted Oct.
5-11. Gallup last asked this question in December 2012, shortly after
the Newtown, Connecticut, mass shooting in which 20 children and six adults
were killed at an elementary school. At that time, support for passing
new gun laws was up by 12 percentage points from 2011, when 35% favored it.
A different Gallup question in the latest poll finds 60% of Americans in favor of
making the laws covering the sale of firearms stricter. For this question, respondents were offered three choices: make the laws
more strict, make them less strict or keep them as they are. The question
did not give the option of tighter enforcement of existing laws, which
is likely why it elicited higher support for stricter laws than the either/or
question. Still, support for new, stricter gun laws now exceeds 50% on
both questions, with support increasing in recent years.
Women, Nonwhites, Democrats Lead the Way for New Gun Laws
The choice between enforcing existing gun laws more strictly and passing
new laws sharply divides Americans along gender, racial and political lines.
Solid majorities of women (60%) and nonwhites (62%) believe new laws are
needed in addition to stricter enforcement of the current laws. At the
same time, majorities of men (56%) and whites (52%) would prefer to have
better enforcement without passing new laws.
The differences by party ID are even starker. Eight in 10 Democrats (81%)
want new gun laws, whereas 73% of Republicans want stricter enforcement
without new gun laws.
Residents of the West and Midwest are split evenly between the two options.
However, residents of the East favor passage of new laws over stricter
enforcement, by 62% to 36%, while residents of the South lean the other
way (46% to 52%).
Americans' Preference for U.S. Gun Laws, by Key Subgroups
Enforce current laws more strictly
Pass new laws in addition
Gender and age
% No opinion not shown
GALLUP, Oct. 5-11, 2017
In terms of the types of new laws they would favor, the vast majority of
stricter controls on the sale of guns, such as universal background checks and mandatory waiting periods. At
the same time, they are split on whether there should be an
outright ban on semi-automatic guns, while they broadly oppose making it illegal for civilians to own handguns.
From April 2000 to October 2011, a majority of Americans consistently preferred
enforcing the current gun laws more strictly to passing new gun laws as
the better approach to U.S. gun policy. That changed in December 2012
with the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, when the public first
split evenly on the question.
Five years later, following more mass shootings -- in Charleston, South
Carolina; Roseburg, Oregon; San Bernardino, California; Orlando, Florida;
Las Vegas and elsewhere -- the percentage favoring new laws has crept
past the 50% mark for the first time. Although this is lower than the
support found when simply asking Americans if the laws should be more
strict, less strict or kept the same, both questions now show majority
support for stricter laws.
It's possible that support for such laws has increased further since
the Texas church shooting. It's also possible that the facts in that
case could result, at least in the short term, in more focus on eliminating
omissions and errors in the data used for firearms background checks.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted
Oct. 5-11, 2017, with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older,
living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results
based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error
is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported
margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone
respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas
by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are
selected using random-digit-dial methods.