CNN Poll: Bare majority now support major gun restrictions
December 19th, 2012
04:00 PM ET
10 years 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. tom

    Whats interesting is they never publish the questions that they ask therefore how are we to believe what they are then stating as fact

    December 19, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  2. Greg

    Most Americans favor a ban on abortions, too.

    December 19, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  3. The Real Tom Paine

    Well, I can really see the rightie posters are out in force here. I see all the comparisons to Prohibition, the drug wars, etc: since the only solution they seem to have is to flood the nation with even more guns, its like saying we can solve the problems with abusing alcohol and drugs by requiring people to become addicts. We are already addicted to guns in the country: we hoard them, stockpile ammo, some states even have a state gun. When do we really take a step back and try to change the culture, which includes deciding not to carry, and not to glorify weapons that can blow holes in human beings? Why is that hard? Answer: we are lazy, angry, and afraid. We thrive on conspiracy theories, and whispers we hear from our neighbors. We don't learn or want to discern the truth, we accept the words of a voice from the radio or a person wearing expensive clothes on the TV that this is what we need to know. We mindlessly accept weapons and death as the norm, Its disturbing, to say the least. Do we want to be like Somalia?

    December 19, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  4. sonny chapman

    Hey Anonymous: Guns don't kill people? How about ,"People With Guns Kill People Splendidly".

    December 19, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  5. Bill

    The issue for the NRA (and the Republicans they fund) is not so much them fighting for our 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms as much as it is about U.S. weapons sales. Gun control is not the same as prohibition! And the only thing the NRA is concerned about are gross revenues and getting more guns out in the streets of America. A safer America is bad business for the NRA! If the weapons manufacturers who support the NRA had a more international market they wouldn't be working so hard on controlling America. But he fact is that the AK-47 and the Russian manufacturers dominate the largest markets in the middle east and all of europe. That's why the NRA is trying desperately to control all gun legislation in America and to protect their only economic interest.

    December 19, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  6. USSA

    Obama the tool is just doing the work of the bankers who put him where he is. Perhaps now people will see that they are ready to bankrupt the nation and steal the last scraps of wealth. The only thing stopping them is those pesky firearms in the hands of the people. If they take your guns, the next stop is the gulag. Is it me, or is this tragedy just a bit too convenient for the powers that be?

    December 19, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  7. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    It's the National Rifle Association. Not the National Assault Rifle Association and it's not the National Handgun Organization.

    December 19, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  8. Simon sez ignorant stuff

    "liberals are taught to lay down and roll over" ........with one of the best educational system in the world how does it that idiots like Simon slip thru the crack!!!

    December 19, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  9. jenny

    I am not a gun owner, but if it was ever made illegal for law abiding Americans to protect their family in their home against intruders .... that would be the time to find another land to call home.

    December 19, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  10. Gary

    The congress should buy back the guns!

    December 19, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  11. Greg

    Where did the people live who participated in the poll? I don;t believe this poll is at all accurate. Way off. I saw this story because I received an email alert from CNN on the subject. I've since unsubscribed from CNN email alerts and gone to another source which is more reliable and truthful (FN).

    December 19, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  12. Pollster

    Majority of Americans believe a majority opinion cannot be determined by polling 620 out of 300+ million..

    A poll of 10 people in my office showed that an overwhelming majority (90%) find it ridiculous that a poll of 620 Americans can lead to any conclusive evidence of American popular opinion on any subject... except the validity of this particular poll.

    December 19, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  13. Galidon

    Nothing like conducting a poll pushing even further useless gun control riding on the emotional tide following such a tragic event commited by a mentally unstable individual. Nothing says left slanted "unbiased" reporting like a well timed CNN "poll".

    December 19, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  14. JB

    Bogus Poll with a 4 point margin of error which would easily put it over the 50% mark. 620 voters out of 300 million Americans definitely isn't a sufficient amount. Everyone go out and buy your guns now before the government takes that right away from you too.

    December 19, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  15. Gun control NOW

    Maybe if some of these gun-totin' tea-baggin' God fearin' NRA-lovin' Republicans had their kids shot up 11 times, they'd favor some form of gun control. Then again, maybe not.

    December 19, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  16. jeff

    How can 620 people represent the millions of Americans?

    December 19, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |

    The guy in CT stole his guns. Can any geniuses at CNN please explain how gun laws will stop criminals who don't legally buy guns to begin with?

    December 19, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  18. Bill

    tells you all you need to know about the NRA where a safer America is bad business for the NRA.

    December 19, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  19. Alex Uribe

    CNN should be engaged in better "journalism" than this crap.

    December 19, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  20. Joe (Houston, Texas)

    it's crazy to see these so called "responsible gun owners" become outraged when new gun legislation is even proposed and then threaten to start a civil war. This is after 20 babies have already been murdered. Guns nuts boggle my mind

    December 19, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  21. David

    I'm in canada and have been a victim of 2 home invasions during the night. In the US at least you can defend yourselves. Here you can be charged with assault if you attack a criminal in your own home. This is a fact as it's happened multiple times over the years. US should ban automatics but allow the public to keep handguns. People cannot rely on the police for protection. In my case especially I had no time to get to a phone.

    December 19, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  22. nadinesh

    Bravo! Some sanity finally filtering down to the people who had possibly been persuaded by the NRA's scare tactics. Don't jerk your knee, people: think about it! We can all come together on this and maybe save more of our citizens from mayhem.

    December 19, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  23. JYoung

    Take this poll again in 3 months, and the results will be very different. You don't blame the tool for being misused, you blame the hand that misused it.

    December 19, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  24. don in albuquerque

    All this talk of civil war is just outrageously funny. All because they want to ban assult weapons for the same reasons they banned the tommy gun in the 30's (might be worng on date). Oh, and Simon. It might surprise you to know that lots of "liberals" own guns too. Many are ex-military, current military, and police officers. People who ARE really trained in how to use weapons, not just run their mouths.

    December 19, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  25. Randy

    Should't suprise anyone that a liberal media group would print something like this. They take surveys when emotions are high. Main stream media at it's best.

    December 19, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
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