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. brad

    I agree with Nick (three posts above) ... a polling of 620 people is hardly representative of a nation. Also, who came up with these polling questions? And I've been SO FRUSTRATED with all of these reporters who have obviously never owned (or held or been around) a gun and who try to ask questions – or better yet, make false statements about guns. Also, I'm tired of GUNS being called weapons. It's a gun until it is used as a weapon. Anything from a knife to a baseball bat can be used as a weapon. Lets ALL get educated before we speak ... especially you reporters.

    December 19, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  2. Joe

    People need to realize that the problem is NOT guns. Banning guns will do nothing. And besides. there is NO way to get all guns off the streets. It just will not happen. Guns do not kill people....PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE. Why is that so hard to understand??? Yes I can agree to stricter gun laws. I myself have went thru classes and have a carry permit so I can carry a concealed weapon. I think everyone who owns guns should take a safety course at least.

    I am just tired of hearing all these comments about GUNS being the problem. If you were to take guns completely out of the picture there would still be a problem. These sick people will still find other ways to kill. America needs to address the REAL problem.

    December 19, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  3. jon

    Arm the faculty. When the citizens are no longer armed, the government has nothing to fear. When the government has nothing to fear, there is no law for them to follow. "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well armed lamb contesting the vote." -Benjamin Franklin.

    December 19, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  4. Jordan

    52% say they favor major restrictions OR a ban. If the survey question was really phrased like that, it is a shotty survey which you can not trust the results from. I for one WOULD favor restrictions, but NOT an outright ban, so how would I answer that question?

    Hopefully the survey creators thought about that and split it into 2 different questions. If not, go back to a high school stats or psych class.

    December 19, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  5. cm

    As one Newtown mother put it very well on PBS yesterday about the argument that somehow legal gun owners can guard themselves or others effectively -
    she said "a point about guns fighting guns. I don't think that worked
    out very well for Nancy Lanza. She owned six guns. And she's not with
    us, period."

    December 19, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  6. jody p

    Because that theoretical or remote event need only happen once to change life as we all know it.

    December 19, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  7. Peter

    There can't be anybody that would want to ban all guns, including hunting weapons. CNN is making that up.

    December 19, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  8. davidstonge

    MADD says 27 people die EVERY DAY from drunk driving. Where is the rush to ban alcohol?

    December 19, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  9. Matt S

    Some people would rather see every child in America dead rather than change gun laws...

    December 19, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  10. John

    Just bought an AR15. They were going fast today, 10 sold during the 40 minutes I was at the store.

    December 19, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  11. Jonny

    CNN Poll: Bare majority now support major gun restrictions–people are pretty ignorant really. Read your history before you vote for gun control. Read about Australia rise in crime after their ban on guns.

    December 19, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    "That problem starts with the family and is centered around where we have placed God in this country."

    HAHAHAHA! God has nothing to do with this. NOTHING.

    December 19, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  13. dad

    Is there really a front page article about this with a sample size of 620?

    December 19, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  14. pbernasc

    perhaps we will make those 20 children and 6 adult 's lost souls make a difference

    December 19, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  15. teq

    You survey 620 people and put it on the homepage.

    December 19, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  16. Nadhme

    Fake poll lol.

    December 19, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  17. mike

    How would you like it if someone tried to completely ban your hobby? There are plenty of sane, rational people out there who and operate guns for hobby and/or sport. This is a typical situation where a few are going to ruin it for the many. I'm guessing that most of the people who are in favor of major or total bans have never held, cleaned, shot or had a class on gun safety. Be educated before you make a decision...oh wait, this is America where any moron can make an uninformed decision and have it count.

    December 19, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  18. roger

    The story starts out "People are looking for the government to do something". It isn't only the government that needs to do something but also the people of this country need to do something. People need to admit to themselves when a loved one is mentally ill and especially if they are dangerous. It seems that every mass shooting in hindsight the family and neighbors said that they knew that something was wrong with the individual but did nothing about it. That has to stop.

    December 19, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  19. jon

    "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well armed lamb contesting the vote." -Benjamin Franklin.

    December 19, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  20. woody

    it looks like the NRA has recruited its members to do the talking while they conveniently remain quiet. For those questioning the poll: 620 may not seem a lot, but the margin of error could also very easily sway to the other side.

    December 19, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  21. jon

    Im guessing that 52 percent aren't willing to fight and die for what they believe in either. Either that or they aren't capable of it.

    December 19, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  22. Tony

    Simple solutions don't solve complicated problems.

    December 19, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  23. Tim W.

    Once again CNN didn't call my phone number in they fiction poll.

    December 19, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Take the money we spend on trying to ban weapons and support mental health. there is your answer.

    December 19, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  25. Bob

    The NRA is a blood soaked, terrorist enabling anti-American bunch of sc@mbags.

    December 19, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
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