Moving the needle on public opinion: America’s culture of gun violence


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

As I posted over the weekend, "be it resolved that this nation begins the debate about its culture of gun violence." This is a broader discussion than gun control.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll
shows that more than half of Americans see the massacre at Sandy Hook
Elementary School last Friday as a sign of broader problems in society
not merely the isolated act of a troubled individual. The finding
reverses a recent trend in which the public saw mass shootings in
Aurora, Colo., and Tucson, Ariz., as aberrations that did not reflect
underlying problems in American culture.

In a major reversal, a slim majority of Americans see the shooting at
Sandy Hook Elementary as a sign of broader problems in society, not
merely an isolated act of a troubled individual, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

From the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech through this year’s massacre
at a theater in Aurora, Colo., the viewpoint that these were discrete
episodes had been steadily increasing. The switch parallels a wave of
bipartisan reaction to the mass murder in Connecticut that some
speculate may prove a “tipping point” in the politics of gun control.

After the Aurora killings in July, just 24 percent of Americans in a Pew Research Center
poll said the shootings there reflected bigger issues in the country.
That number has more than doubled to 52 percent, with 43 percent seeing
Sandy Hook as an isolated incident — 67 percent had said so about

The shift after Sandy Hook is broad-based, with most Democrats,
Republicans and independents alike now saying the shooting is a sign of
societal problems
. This opinion has increased by double-digits across
party lines since the 2011 shootings in Tucson, Ariz. that killed six
people and injured former congresswoman Gabbie Giffords.

Greg Sargent  digs into the poll results. Why Dems shouldn’t fear politics of gun control:

What’s really striking is that opposition to stricter gun control is
largely driven by white men — blue collar white men in particular.

By contrast, college educated whites, white women, moderates, and
minorities all show majority support for stricter gun laws. These are
the emerging pillars of the Democratic coalition.

First, the toplines. The Post poll finds that Americans favor
stricter gun laws by 54-43. The Post polling team tells me that whites
oppose them by 48-50. But this is driven by opposition among white men
(42-56) and non-college whites (44-53). By contrast, college educated
whites favor stricter laws (54-43), as do white women (53-44).

The same pattern is evident on semi-automatic weapons. Overall,
Americans favor a nationwide ban on them by 52-44. Whites narrowly
oppose this (48-49), but here again this is driven by opposition among
white men (40-58) and non-college whites (42-54). By contrast, white
women favor a ban by 56-40 and college educated whites favor one by

Public support for a nationwide ban on high capacity magazines is
even stronger among the constituencies making up the emerging Democratic
coalition. Americans overall support one by 59-48, as do big majorities
of college educated whites and white women. Indeed, this is a case
where even groups Dems are losing support a ban — non-college whites
back one by 52-45, and white men back one by 54-45 — further
underscoring that Dems are probably on safe ground with this route.

On all the above three questions, solid majorities of moderates
support stricter laws, as do big majorities of non-whites. HuffPo reports
that Senator Frank Lautenberg is set to introduce such a ban on high
capacity magazines — which were used in recent mass shootings, including
in Newtown — in the new Congress.

 ”Gun control is now overwhelmingly unpopular among the portions of
the white electorate Obama is least likely to win anyway — and maintains
solid majority support among the Americans most likely to actually vote
for him,” Brownstein writes. “Gun control, in fact, remains a majority
position with the same groups generally most enthusiastic about Obama’s
recent embrace of gay marriage, free access to contraception in health
insurance, and an administration version of the Dream Act for young
illegal immigrants.”

Sargent concludes that "the groups Obama relied upon for reelection — the emerging coalition of
the Democratic Party’s future — are all behind gun control."

UPDATE: A Pew Research Center survey released Monday
found that the public is divided over the meaning of Friday's shooting
in Newtown, Conn. Forty-seven percent of respondents said the shooting
reflects broader societal problems in the U.S. and 44 percent said it
was the act of a troubled individual.

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AZ BlueMeanie
The Blue Meanie is an Arizona citizen who wishes, for professional reasons, to remain anonymous when blogging about politics. Armed with a deep knowledge of the law, politics and public policy, as well as pen filled with all the colors stolen from Pepperland, the Blue Meanie’s mission is to pursue and prosecute the hypocrites, liars, and fools of politics and the media – which, in practical terms, is nearly all of them. Don’t even try to unmask him or he’ll seal you in a music-proof bubble and rendition you to Pepperland for a good face-stomping. Read blog posts by the infamous and prolific AZ Blue Meanie here.


  1. I have been wrong before and I may be wrong again but I don’t think people’s answers on a poll are very likely to translate to changes in the political environment or votes in November 2014. The gun regulation proposals are (nearly) all rehashes of past proposals that aren’t likely to be more effective this time around.
    With all the fiscal cliff buildup I don’t see that anybody is going to be passing firearm legislation before the new congress assembles in January. Only time will tell if I am right or wrong.
    “because of the Democratic Party’s waning reliance on culturally conservative white voters” – Did I read that right? Well, well. Maybe I will be right if Greg Sargent is so very wrong.