CNN Poll: Bare majority now support major gun restrictions
December 19th, 2012
04:00 PM ET
1 year ago

CNN Poll: Bare majority now support major gun restrictions

Washington (CNN) – Americans are reacting to the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut with elevated levels of anger, shock and fear that have led a growing number of people to look for action from the government and society that can prevent future incidents, according to a new national survey.

And the CNN/ORC International poll released Wednesday also indicates that a bare majority now favor major restrictions on owning guns or an outright ban on gun ownership by ordinary citizens and more than six in ten favor a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles.

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The survey was conducted Monday and Tuesday, following Friday's horrific incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School when a gunman armed with a semi-automatic rifle killed 20 young children and six adults.

Forty-six percent of people questioned in the poll say that that government and society can take action to prevent future gun violence. That's up 13 percentage points from January 2011, following a shooting incident in Tucson, Arizona that left six dead and some, including then Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, severely injured. A 53% majority still believes that attacks will continue to happen regardless of any action taken, but that's down 13 points from January 2011.

"Any changes in attitudes towards guns and gun violence are likely due to the highly emotional reaction many Americans have had to the recent shootings," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

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Just over eight in ten express shock and anger over the events in Connecticut, with nearly half saying they feel fearful in response to the shootings.

"All of those numbers are much higher than they were in a CNN poll conducted in January, 2011, indicating that the tragedy in Connecticut may be affecting more Americans more intensely than other recent attacks," added Holland.

Does that translate into a call for greater restrictions on guns?

The number of Americans who favor major restrictions or an outright ban has typically hovered just under the 50% mark in recent years; now that number is just over 50%. According to the poll 52% say they favor major restrictions on guns or making all guns illegal. That's a five point rise from a CNN survey conducted in early August, following the mass shooting in July at a movie theater in suburban Denver, Colorado that left 12 dead, and shootings two weeks later at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where six people were killed. The five point rise is within the poll's sampling error.

Forty-three percent say last Friday's elementary school shootings in Connecticut makes them more likely to support gun control laws, a 15 point increase from January 2011 following the Arizona incident. Half of those questioned say the school shootings have not changed their opinions on gun control, down 19 points from January 2011.

On specific proposals, the American public has had a clear and consistent position for years. There is nearly unanimous support for background checks and more than nine in ten believe that some people, such as convicted felons and people with mental health problems, should be prevented from owning guns. Nearly eight in ten favor gun restrictions laws and 62% support a ban on semi-automatic assault guns and also high-capacity ammunition clips. Fifty-two percent oppose a limit on the number of guns an individual can own.

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The survey indicates the expected partisan divide on gun control. Nearly eight in ten Democrats say they favor major restrictions on owning guns or an outright ban. That number drops to 42% among independents and 31% among Republicans. There's also a gender gap, with 41% of men saying say support major restrictions or an outright ban, with that number jumping to 62% among women.

The poll's release comes on the same day that President Barack Obama announced that Vice President Joe Biden will lead an administration effort to develop recommendations no later than January for preventing another tragedy like last week's elementary school shooting.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International December 17-18, with 620 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report


Filed under: 2012 • CNN/ORC International poll
soundoff (268 Responses)
  1. cuzz

    Once again the gov wanting to take rights away when it is obviously a civil down fall trash the morals, and this is what you get out of control people doing things for no cause but to make themselves famous sounds like the senate & gov officials wanting to take the point of attention away from the public while they push some other restraining law in place, tighten that loose a little more

    December 19, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  2. roy

    I say round up all the guns in the country and dump them in the ocean granted the nuts will find other ways to kill innocent people but it will be harder for them and probably not as many killed each time.

    December 19, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    52% was enough to elect the President in a landslide, but it's a 'bare majority' for new gun laws?

    December 19, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  4. david

    will the 52% please stock up on provisions before you yurn your guns in.

    December 19, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  5. Jerry5555

    Abortions kill more people every year than guns do. Where's the outrage there????

    Guns aren't going anywhere, as abortion is not going anywhere. Just a bunch of politics being played now. In one month, this entire situations will be forgotten, as some new world event will happen that will cause the media to shift topics.

    Also, I love how CNN has an entire section dedicated to Gun Control now, lol. CNN, the Obama communication machine! hahaha.

    December 19, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  6. jtsuter

    I suggest we stay away from altering (let alone eliminating) any of the provisions in the Bill of Rights. Once you overturn one right, then others will follow, especially if you eliminate the right for people to bear arms to defend against a tyrannical state that seeks to eliminate the other enumerated rights.

    December 19, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  7. Sphere

    Is it really too much to ask that reporters have a basic understanding of the topics they report on?

    "...more than six in ten favor a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles." An "assault rifle" by definition is a rifle capable of burst or fully automatic fire. "Semi-automatic assault rifle" is an oxymoron. This is like a reporter writing an article on automobiles without understanding the difference between a car and a truck. How is anyone supposed to have an intelligent conversation about these weapons when everyone is so absurdly ignorant?

    December 19, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  8. curtis

    The statistics are bogus at best. I can be a total pro-gun person and answer the above questions in a way that would count as anti-gun. Of course more Americans are going to answer yes to the two questions above....however, most folks who would answer yes may not answer yes to a direct question of "Would you support more gun laws being enacted because of the shooting?" or "Do you think that semi-automatic weapons should be banned because of the shooting?" The problem with CNN is that they ask questions that mot people will answer positive to their cause....BOGUS. Also, I totally disagree with the author's percentages....it's propaganda at best.

    December 19, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  9. jvance

    There won't be any "major" changes in gun laws. The public isn't ready to do that. A few nibbles on the fringes regarding large capacity magazines and "assaut weapons". I don't think the average parent will be enamored with Ms Jones the 2nd grade teacher packing a Glock but they might be interested in better on-site security.
    Both the hard right and hard left will be furious but the tangible effect will be inconsequential.

    December 19, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  10. Logical Approach

    Wondering how libs plan to enforce outlawing guns seeing how millions are already in the open market..

    December 19, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  11. Mark

    Gun law reformation will not change anything except make it harder to pruchase guns. Will it change the mind of a 20 year old kid that is hell bent on killing children? No! Will it take away all other forms of deadly weapons like homemade bombs, knives, grenades, ect? No! Gun reformation is like putting a bandade on a much larger social problem within the states. That problem starts with the family and is centered around where we have placed God in this country.

    December 19, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  12. Sickened in SF

    There have been multiple incidents of mass-shootings and gun-related violence over the years and, last time I checked, not one U.S. military/goverment uprising against the people. As such, why does the "right" to protect yourself against a theoretical and remote event trump all concerns about the immediate and real threat that we and our children face every day? You can cite the "people kill people" reference all you want, but the fact is that people that shouldn't have guns are able to get them and a person wielding a semi-automatic rifle can do a lot more damage. Gun control alone is not the answer, but it certainly can't make the situation any worse. What's the harm in trying?

    December 19, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  13. pasky

    what a silly, deprived of all sensible facts this poll is
    1) 620 people polled ???? really ???? seriously ????
    2) a week after a major shooting ???
    Hey CNN, you journalism intellect is going down the drain fast....did you collect a poll 5 days after 9/11 to find out how many people felts that islam should be banned ???? I didn't think so
    what a stupid poll

    December 19, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  14. Jack

    As a gun owner, I have for years said enough is enough.

    December 19, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  15. Peace

    Why some people are content that possessing a gun, they are 120% safe? If every citizen will have one as I have read the selling jumped after Connecticut tragedy, your beliefs will end up in vain incase measures on gun restrictions are not taken.

    December 19, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  16. Beth

    620 is WAY too small a sample for such a conclusion! this is nowhere near an accurate representation on America

    December 19, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  17. J G

    More and more Americans willing to give up their hard-earned and fought for freedoms. It's sad. Part of the entitlement generations that think nothing bad will ever happen. Blind to the dangers of the future, they gladly throw away freedom.

    December 19, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  18. Paul

    When has either CNN or Fox come back and said the national poll disagreed with their agenda?

    December 19, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    "Is anyone here fluent in statistics? For proper polling to call this representative of the nation, one would have needed to poll over 1000 people, not 620."

    Yes, I'm fluent and it's perfectly fine. All they did was take a measure and report it. The math determines things like the margin of error, etc., and they reported it, so it's not like they're hiding anything. We're not talking about something with p-values or for which we need to determine variance, etc. It's just (a) ask questions of a particular RANDOM sample, (b) tally the answers, (c) dun statistics program to tell you how accurate, i.e., margin of error etc., (d) report.

    There's really nothing funky going on. Surveys are the simplest, crudest form of statistical analysis and I can assure you, they've very likley done nothing wrong in their methodology. As to whether there's something wrong with how they reported it or wheher it's wrong for the "news" to claim it is living up to the supposedly high standards of "journalistic integrity" to be always relying on polls to generate news stories for the 24-hour "news" cycle in the first place...well, that's all matter of opinion.

    December 19, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  20. lolol

    "And the CNN/ORC International poll released Wednesday also indicates that a bare majority now favor major restrictions on owning guns"

    BREAKING NEWS: POLL CONDUCTED ON LIBERAL NEWS SITE FAVORS TIGHTER GUN LAWS.

    December 19, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  21. cm

    As one Newtown child put it in a letter to Obama – ban all guns from this land. If people want to go hunting or target shooting, then they go to their designated places, shoot all they want. But the guns remain within those designated places! No home or person other than military or police should own guns of any caliber...period!

    December 19, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  22. Christopher E

    So, you want to make guns illegal so they will not be on the streets? hmm.. why dont we make heroin and smack illegal? Oh! We did! It didnt work either. Damn fools! Only the law abiding people will abide by the laws! Only and idiot cant see that!

    December 19, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  23. Guns are Bad?

    Funny. Talk about banning assault rifles and then show a picture of shotguns and bolt action rifles.

    Ban all guns, never can happen. Any changes to laws will have to be over a long period of time, or else it will require citizens to turn in all weapons, or have the government come and take them all. Does anyone see a problem here?

    December 19, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    "did you collect a poll 5 days after 9/11 to find out how many people felts that islam should be banned ????"

    You're kidding, right? Polling outfits started collecting data on all sorts of things on September 12, 2001.

    December 19, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  25. Christopher E

    And for those fools that believe gun control cant make it worse, gun control is what killed so many children! Yes! Your restrictions on allowing law abiding people to protect those children KILLED THEM!

    December 19, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
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