The public is now less interested in Congress working on guns than it was last year.
Americans’ desire for new government action on guns has dropped five points since December 2021 and 11 points since June 2022, according to a new Associated Press (AP) poll released on Sunday. Guns have fallen from the second-most important issue in June 2022 into a tie for fifth-most important issue by December 2022. Nineteen percent of Americans said they want the government to work on gun issues in the coming year, behind the economy, inflation, immigration, and climate change.
Only Democrats listed guns in the top five of their priorities list for 2023. Republicans and Independents did not name the issue as one of their top priorities. And the gun issue has faded for many Democrats, with a 15-point drop in concern between June and December.
The polling numbers indicate there will be little motivation for Congress to come back to the issue of guns in the new year after passing the first federal gun restrictions in decades last summer. New gun legislation was already going to be a longshot with Republicans, who oppose new restrictions, taking over control of the House of Representatives after the 2022 midterm elections. With the issue dropping on the priority list for even Democrats, the political momentum required to get new gun-control or gun-rights measures through a divided Congress likely doesn’t exist right now.
The decline in importance of gun policy is likely due in part to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was signed into law in June 2022. The rise of new gun owners over the past several years, with a previous AP poll finding 46 percent of Americans now report having a gun in their home, could be another reason the issue has faded. But the lack of new high-profile mass shootings akin to May’s attack on an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, has probably contributed to it as well since support for new restrictions tends to ebb and flow around such attacks.
The poll found that while the desire for government action on guns is decreasing, so are concerns over crime and violence in the United States. While it continued to rank lower than gun issues, Americans were five points more likely to consider it a top issue than in June and six points more than in the previous December. 16 percent now view it as something the government needs to do more to address.
Americans were mostly united on their very top priorities, with economic issues dominating the poll. And, even where they disagree, gun issues have fallen out of favor compared with other partisan preferences.
“As in June, economic issues are top priorities, regardless of party identification. Independents cite inflation, and the economy in general, as their biggest concerns,” the AP said in a statement. “These issues are also among the top five for Democrats and Republicans. The environment and climate change have replaced gun issues as the top priority for Democrats.”
The AP poll, performed in cooperation with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, was conducted December 1-5, 2022, using online and telephone interviews with 1,124 adults. The margin of error was +/-3.8 percent.