Several pollsters have updated their questions and asked new ones about gun control in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. Below is a sampling of the responses with some historical context.
Mental health screenings: There are very few questions in the polls about mental health. In the wake of the shootings, Gallup asked whether increased government spending on mental health screenings and treatments would have been effective in preventing mass shootings at schools. Fifty percent said it would have been very effective, 34% somewhat effective, and 14% not effective.
Stricter laws: Fifty-seven percent told CBS News pollsters that gun-control laws should be made more strict, an 18-point jump from the previous survey conducted in April 2012. In CNN/Opinion Research Corporation’s four-part question, roughly a third of Americans said there should be only minor restrictions on owning guns, slightly more than a third believe there should be major restrictions on owning guns, 13% said there should be no restrictions, and 15% said most guns should be illegal. These responses have not changed much in multiple surveys since 2009.
When asked how much gun control laws would have done to prevent the Newtown shooting, 50% said they would not have had an effect, 16% said they would have helped a little, and 26% a lot.
Gun control measures: Americans support most gun control measures tested in CNN/ORC’s latest poll. A large majority of Americans support a background check on anyone attempting to purchase a gun (95%), preventing certain people, such as convicted felons or people with mental health problems, from owning guns (92%), requiring gun owners to register their guns with the local government (78%), a ban on the manufacture, sale, and possession of semi-automatic assault guns (62%), and a ban on the sale and possession of equipment known as high-capacity or extended ammunition clips (62%).
Americans were divided on limiting the number of guns an individual can own. Forty-eight percent agreed, while 52% were opposed.
Gun rights: A new Pew survey found that 49% said it was more important to control gun ownership while 42% said it was more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns. In 1993, the first time Pew asked the question, 57% said it was more important to control ownership. In the new poll, men and women were mirror images of one another, with women preferring greater gun control.
What’s wrong?: According to Pew, Americans are divided over whether the Newtown shooting reflects broader societal problems (47% think it does) or is an isolated act of a troubled individual (44% agree). Men and women are particularly divided on the question. Fifty-one percent of men (39% of women) think shootings like Newtown are acts of troubled individuals. Fifty-four percent of women (39% of men) think such shootings reflect societal problems.
The reactions toward Newtown are more similar to reactions to the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, where Americans were also divided on the society versus individual question. After the 2011 Tucson Arizona shooting and July 2012 Aurora Colorado shooting, most Americans said such incidents were isolated acts of troubled individuals.
Following the news: Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed by Pew said they were following news about the shootings very closely. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed by Gallup said the news media refusing to print or read the names of the person responsible for the shooting would have been very effective in preventing the shooting, 30% somewhat effective, and 40% not effective at all.
Partisan reactions: Unsurprisingly, partisan reactions on gun control laws are strong. Seventy-eight percent of Democrats told CBS News pollsters that gun-control laws should be more strict. Forty-eight percent of Independents gave that response, while only 38% of Republicans said laws should be more strict.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We’ll be back in 2013.