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.
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.
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
Tyranny of the majority...exactly why the 2nd amendment is part of the Bill of Rights.
Face it people, CNN only published this so that talking heads (Big O among them) can quote it. Politics, and CNN is just a pawn. This is a bogus poll taken from an astronomically small section of Americans.
Now, if the lefties will please stop posing as right wing nut jobs and we can all try to have a civilized and intelligent discussion?
Greg: LOL!! Just making up statistics and spouting them off to people here doesn't make them so, you know. Most Americans actual FAVOR a woman's right to choose whether to have an abortion or not. And among the MINORITY that favor a ban on abortions, a significant percentage wouldn't have one themselves, but would not restrict their fellow citizen's access to an abortion. So now, you're completely wrong about that one.
We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions. – Ronald Reagan
I don't understand why the American people have become such a pathetic conglomerate of government needy sheep. I'm sure people in Germany didn't see Hitler coming. Give up your guns and give up your freedom.
Guns don't kill people,bad parenting kills people!
People can't shoot bullets into other people without guns. This is a no-brainer.
JYoung: that's why our leaders won't wait. We'll strike while this iron is hot, all the time holding up pictures of the children and teachers killed because YOU allowed access to a Bushmaster rifle by the son of crazed gun fetishist! You're losing this one, and it's about time!
People can't propel bullets into other people without guns. This is a no-brainer
“According to the poll 52% say they favor major restrictions on guns or making all guns illegal" and yet in the news a couple a days ago a gun shop owner claims that sales have soared since the senseless massacre of 20 innocent, beautiful children and 6 caregivers/teachers. After something as tragic as this you would think that there would be line ups at the local police stations with people turning in their weapons to be destroyed. As long as the weapons are available regardless of locked gun cabinets and responsible owners this will continue. You can’t stop a sick mind from hunting down and killing the ones you love.
The gun manufacture's love these stories. It makes people go out and buy guns. They also know there won't be a total ban on all guns.
What do obama have to with this they are talking about gun control not the president read read
I'm all for strict gun control, but you are not disarming me and leaving me and my family defenseless with all the nut jobs out there, it's not happening.
It's a knee jerk reaction, and I know how CNN does their polls. They word them in such a way, that it shifts the numbers.
within 3 weeks it will be under 45%, assuming they are all voters. This is going nowhere because data doesn't support control.
I think the TSA should be set up at every school screening everyone who goes in. All kids should be frisked daily and sent through a full body scanner after they pass by the bomb and drug sniffing dogs.
Since this will cost money, a special tax just for parents should be installed. Actually, the elimination of the child income tax credit would be a good start. No more refunds.
No need for assault rifles. Although all this gun talk is really silly when you are not going to ban all guns. Cause it is just as easy to kill with a handgun if you know how to use it and are crazy enough.
The shooter in CT is dead and everyone in the country is fired up, wanting to direct their anger towards someone or something so they decide to go after guns, gun owners, nra, etc.. The truth is that most gun owners are regular people with families, professional jobs, and are NOT out endangering anyone's life!! Let's not get carried away people.
Guns don't kill people. Unstable individuals with easy access to assault rifles kill people. Only an idiot would not want gun restrictions. All the conservative rhetoric isn't working anymore (I.e. see GOP losing in a landslide last month). I'm so happy we have someone with a brain as president.
Maybe poll the people about the Bill of Rights, may as well just throw it out, Feedom of Speach is diminished (thanks Media)
Freedom of Religion is being attacked and infringed, and now you want our guns.
Sounds like COMMUNISM to everyone my age
that is NOT AMERICA
Nut Case and Criminal's do not care about Gun Control Laws. And it's not that hard to get illagle gun from right across the Border. So only Nut Cases and Criminal's will have Them. Not to Mention Terrorest that just waiting for the Goverment to Disarm Us.
You cannot take a poll like this right after such a tragedy happens. People aren't thinking normally. While I do support some more restrictions and policies on guns, banning them outright is asinine. What about the MILLIONS of people who already have guns. Do they get grandfathered in? Well that's not fair because they get to have guns... So you just take them from everybody? I want to see what happens when they try to take millions of peoples firearms away. The shootings that occur then will be terrible.
Policies, restrictions. Yes. BAN? Absolutely not. It is far too late in time for this.
I'm so glad that this poll is pointing out yet another thing - this is another feminist issue. Although I have a female friend who feels strongly that she must own a handgun, for the most part women are repelled by firearms and many of us feel that WE are and our CHILDREN are the usual targets of them. So many men have no police record and appear to be "pillars of the community" and then come home and beat the crap outta their wives/girlfriends. Those people have no business owning firearms. Time and time again there are stories of these men threatening their wives and children with guns, saying how one day they're gonna blow their heads off. And that day often does come - even if the woman runs away with her kids. Theree is something of the gun fetishist in so many of these cracked control freaks.
you are a fool if you think a gun ban will make you safe.
The day guns become illegal in this county it ceases to be the United States of America. It also will lead to the second American civil war.