Americans are far apart on whether their country needs more gun restrictions.
The argument that gun laws should be stricter produced a 53-point gap between Democrats and Republicans in a Gallup poll released on Monday. That is the second-largest gap of any policy position the pollster asked about, falling just two points behind the controversial healthcare and environmental positions with the largest gap. 84 percent of Democrats said they want stricter gun laws, while just 31 percent of Republicans said the same.
“The 24 issues and topics included in this analysis were selected because of their prominence in political discussions and controversies, so it comes as no shock to find universal, although variable, differences in how Republicans and Democrats view each of them as outlined in this analysis,” Frank Newport, a polling analyst for Gallup, said in a post on the results. “These gaps have shifted over time, as noted, ending in a situation wherein the largest gaps in the latest available data appear in views on the government’s role in providing healthcare, global warming and environmental issues, gun laws, abortion, and the role of the federal government.”
The substantial gap on gun policy between the two major parties is a well-known phenomenon, but the new numbers from Gallup suggest it has been remarkably consistent over the past twenty years. The gap has resulted in significantly divergent firearms laws throughout states where either party enjoys total control. The continued gap likely means the trend of gun restrictions varying wildly depending on the state will persist.
However, there is also reason to believe the gap is not necessarily widening. While guns represent one of the most polarizing issues in American politics, and the gap between each side appears to be wider than it was 20 years ago, it has seemingly stopped expanding in the past decade.
But that stability has come from voters from both parties becoming at least somewhat more supportive of tightening the nation’s gun laws.
“Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to say the country needs stricter gun laws, as was the case in 2003 and 2013,” Newport wrote. “Both Democrats’ and Republicans’ views that there should be stricter laws have edged up since 2013, maintaining but not expanding the substantial partisan gap.”
Republicans remain highly skeptical of the idea, and each side remains far apart on the question of adding new gun restrictions. But the overall trend may still be cause for concern among gun-rights advocates in the long term.
Guns were far from the only issue that produced stark contrasts in how each party approached policy solutions. The poll found a substantial gap in all 24 issues it asked about, including global warming, abortion, and immigration. Gallup said the persistent polarization over the last twenty years has likely resulted in policy positions taking a back seat to other factors in primary elections and beyond.
“The consequences of the type of issue polarization reviewed in this analysis are widespread,” Newport said. “The division in issues positions between parties, for one thing, can mean there is little variation within parties, which in turn can mean that choice of candidates in primaries can depend on how strongly the candidates profess allegiance to the party’s positions and on non-issues factors such as personality, character and history.”