Gun Control Debate: Democrats, Independents, and Republicans All Support Universal Background Checks


A new study from the Pew Research Foundation on background checks has found some information that may be surprising for people on both sides of the gun-control debate. Among the surprising facts in the survey is that it finds broad support for background checks among all three political parties, even Republicans.

As the chart above shows, background checks have overwhelming majorities of support among Americans of all political persuasions, Republican (81% support) to Democrats (83% support). Even those who aligned themselves with the Tea Party had a support level of 63%.

However when it comes to the Manchin-Toomey background-checks bill that was defeated in the Senate earlier this year, support is less consistent across the board. Although Democrats and independents supported passing the bill by large majorities, 88% and 71% respectively, support from Republicans drops to 57% support. But perhaps the most important statistic is what happens to support from Tea Party-aligned Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. The level of support plummets to 28% in that case.

There has been a consistent finding among polling outfits of high level of support for background checks for gun purchases.

As the above chart shows, Pew tracked four major polls over a period of time and saw consistently high support for background checks for gun purchases, never dropping below 80%.

However when it comes to the specific measure of the Manchin-Toomey bill support becomes slightly more divided. An earlier chart showed the that Republican support of the bill was lower than the level of support for background checks in general, a finding put out by other poll as well.

Via Gallup

Via Washington Post

Via CBS News

There is also some interesting data on the NRA’s influence.

The National Rifle Association still commands the allegiance of Republicans, conservative Republicans in particular. The NRA managed to defeat the first attempt to pass the Manchin-Toomey bill through a concentrated lobbying effort, urging gun-rights advocates to mobilize and contact their Senators en masse. Given that the NRA is putting up opposition to any specific gun-control measure, this does not speak well of the possibility of any bipartisan gun-control measure, no matter how broad public support is in the abstract.

Overall the Pew survey shows that while the American populace may broadly like a specific idea, implementation in a specific way is more difficult to achieve. This does not bode well for any gun control, good news for the NRA. If the Republican Party at large will suffer any electoral backlash for supporting this element of its base remains to be seen however.