Only a tiny percentage of Americans view gun policy as the top issue in the upcoming midterm elections.
That’s according to a new poll from The New York Times and Siena College released on Monday. Just one percent of likely voters told the paper guns were their top priority less than a month away from the election. That means the issue has dropped eight points from the same poll back in July, putting it in a tie for 14th-most important.
Independents rated the issue slightly higher in importance, with two percent listing gun policies as their top concern. Biden voters reported the same level of concern. However, those who listed guns as a top concern during the summer were more likely to prefer Democrats control Congress, and the decline of the issue combined with the increase in concern over issues Republicans are viewed more favorably on, such as inflation, could signal bad news for the president’s party.
The drop in political interest around guns comes after a summer with a multitude of high-profile gun-related stories. In May, a gunman attacked an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 children and two teachers. In response to the massacre, President Joe Biden signed bipartisan legislation implementing the first new federal gun restrictions in decades. Shortly afterward, the Supreme Court delivered a major ruling recognizing the Second Amendment protects the right to carry a gun outside the home.
In August, the House of Representatives passed a ban on AR-15s and similar firearms for the first time since the 1990s. President Biden has continued to call for the Senate to take up the bill, including after a teenager murdered five people with a shotgun in North Carolina last week. The legislation, which has seen its popularity fall even after Uvalde, has stalled despite pressure from gun-control advocates.
Gun groups have also poured millions of dollars into ads less than a month before voters cast their ballots. However, they have also hedged their messages to incorporate other issues beyond guns. Everytown for Gun Safety has announced plans to spend nearly $10 million in October, but many of the group’s ads lead with a message on abortion instead of guns. The National Rifle Association is close on Everytown’s heels in spending and has focused more directly on the gun issue, but they have also detoured into messages on crime.
Other polling shows voters giving guns a more prominent position. Two recent polls conducted by YouGov for Yahoo News and The Economist show between four and five percent of respondents named guns their top issue. However, those numbers are down significantly from June, when both found eight percent viewed guns as the most important issue.
The Times poll was conducted among 792 registered voters between October 9th and 12th. The Yahoo News poll was conducted among 1,629 adults between October 13th and 17th. Similarly, The Economist surveyed 1500 adults between the 16th and 18th.