Most Americans believe President Joe Biden needs to adjust his aim on gun policy.
A pair of polls that dropped last week show only about a third of the public approve of Biden’s handling of guns. Quinnipiac University found 34 percent of respondents approved of Biden’s gun policies while 49 percent disapproved. The Economist and YouGov found 34 percent approved while 47 percent disapproved. Further, the Economist and YouGov poll indicates a plurality of Americans strongly disapprove of Biden’s performance. Those strongly approving of Biden’s gun policies were the smallest group in the survey.
Biden’s approval on guns was about 14 points lower in these two polls than it was when the Associated Press and the University of Chicago asked the question at the beginning of May.
The opposition to Biden’s handling of guns may further hinder the effort by the president and his fellow Democrats to pass stricter gun laws. If moderate senators are scared off by the low approval, it could ultimately derail the confirmation of David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Key senators are still weighing whether to approve Biden’s nomination of Chipman after a contentious confirmation hearing in late May.
Biden’s proposed gun legislation includes a universal background check proposal as well as a ban and registration scheme for AR-15s. But he’s been stymied by a lack of support in Congress, especially from more moderate fellow Democrats. Biden has decided to take unilateral action redefining what constitutes a firearm to ban so-called ghost guns and place further restrictions on guns with pistol braces. He nominated Chipman, a former ATF agent and gun-control group adviser, to help advance his plans to use the executive agency to implement new gun measures.
Americans have reacted to these efforts negatively. Biden got his second-lowest marks on guns in the Quinnipiac poll, and respondents to the Economist poll gave him lower marks on guns than any other issue. In the Quinnipiac poll and the Economist poll, respectively, Biden’s approval on guns was 15 and 17 points lower than his overall approval rating.
Political polarization was evident in the responses. Biden received the highest approval for his gun policies from Democrats at 61 percent, according to Quinnipiac. Republicans gave him the lowest approval at 8 percent. Biden’s gun policy was under water with independents at just 29 percent approval.
But Biden’s approval on guns was underwater with every demographic except Democrats and black Americans.
The public’s appetite for stricter gun laws has receded in 2021, according to several recent polls. While imposing new restrictions remains slightly more popular than not, support has fallen by seven points in separate April polls conducted by Pew Research as well as ABC News and the Washington Post. Support fell even more among certain demographics. Among young Americans and Hispanics, the desire for stricter gun laws fell by 20 points in the ABC poll.
The change in attitudes comes after Americans bought more guns in 2020 than any year on record. An industry estimate also put the number of new gun owners at more than 8.4 million last year. And 2021 has actually seen an increase in gun buying to this point.
Quinnipiac’s poll of 1,316 adults has a margin of error of 2.7 percent and was conducted between May 18 and 24. The poll of 1,500 adults by the Economist and YouGov had a margin of error of 2.9 percent and was conducted between May 22 and 25.