- The partisan gap on tightening gun laws has narrowed but is still massive.
- Those who say Biden bears some of the blame has jumped by 15 points.
- The survey findings come amid bipartisan negotiations on Capitol Hill for new laws.
Half of Republicans support stricter gun laws, an exclusive USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds, a double-digit increase after a series of horrific mass shootings at schools, stores, streets and houses of worship.
The increase in GOP support – from 35% last year to 50% – could boost the prospects for Congress to tighten federal gun laws, an effort that has failed for decades. The House is poised to pass a Democratic package of proposals this week as bipartisan negotiations on a less far-reaching compromise continue behind closed doors in the Senate.
On Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Miah Cerrillo, 11, is scheduled to testify at what seems sure to be a heartbreaking hearing. She is a fourth grader who smeared herself with a classmate’s blood and played dead during last month’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 children and two teachers.
More:Facing nightmares, Uvalde survivor Miah Cerrillo, 11, will testify at House hearing on guns
“I’m pro-gun, that’s part of the Second Amendment,” says Sean Nelson, 27, an independent from Hagerstown, Maryland, who leans to the GOP. The cybersecurity analyst was among those called in the survey. The mass shootings prompted him to support stronger background checks and waiting periods for gun purchases. “With all these things happening, we need better regulation and better rules to prevent those things happening,” he says.
In the survey, Americans by nearly 7-1 back more restrictions on guns, 69%-10%, a level of support that has been roughly steady in Ipsos’ surveys over the past five years. The backing of Republicans, which reached as high as 59% in 2018, had dropped to a low of 35% in March 2021.
That support has rebounded to 50%. What’s more, Republicans are more likely to blame “loose gun laws” for mass shootings in the USA: 43% in the new poll, compared with 27% a year ago. The percentage of independents who hold inadequate restrictions on guns responsible increased to 64% from 55%.
Eighty-six percent of Democrats blame loose gun laws, topping a list of nine potential factors.
The poll of 1,117 adults, taken online Friday to Monday, has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
The survey was taken over the worst weekend for mass shootings in the USA this year. From Friday through Sunday, at least 17 people were killed in mass shootings, according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive and analyzed by USA TODAY. There were at least a dozen shootings that killed or injured four or more people.
Though the gap in views between Republicans and Democrats has narrowed, it remains massive. A year ago, the partisan divide on stricter gun laws was 55 percentage points. Now it is 38 points.
“Guns are at the center of our hyper-partisan world,” Ipsos President Cliff Young says. “Though Democrats and Republicans may be inching closer toward consensus on stricter gun laws, deep divisions remain on the societal factors at the root of mass shootings and how we move toward solutions.”
Laying blame on mental health system, gun makers, video games, presidents
Among Republicans and Democrats, about 8 in 10 say the mental health system bears at least some responsibility for mass shootings. More than half of Republicans and Democrats blame violent video games.
Asked about other factors, the two parties divide: 77% of Democrats blame gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association, more than double the 28% of Republicans who do. Eight in 10 Democrats blame racism and white nationalism, almost double the percentage of Republicans who agree. Three-fourths of Democrats blame Congressional Republicans; more than half of Republicans blame congressional Democrats.
Two-thirds of Democrats say former President Donald Trump bears at least some responsibility; 17% of Republicans say he does.
In what could be a warning flag for President Joe Biden, the percentage of Americans who say he bears at least some blame for mass shootings has increased since last year. Then, 27% said he was very or somewhat responsible. Now, 42% say he is.
The percentage of respondents who see Biden as having at least some responsibility rose by 6 points among independents, 16 points among Republicans and 13 points among Democrats. That could reflect frustration among members of the president’s own party about his inability to deliver on the issue so far.
For Roger Bartley, 76, a Democrat from Granite Bay, California, concerns about gun violence hit home when a student at his grandchildren’s high school made threats and had guns at home. He wants to see more action from Democratic officials, including raising the age to buy firearms to 21.
“I don’t think they fought hard enough to get the laws changed,” he says in a follow-up interview after being polled. “I think that should be the No. 1 priority: Be more outspoken and introduce a bevy of laws.”