Americans back tougher gun laws, but GOP support plummets even after Atlanta, Boulder shootings, exclusive poll finds

Two-thirds of Americans back tougher gun laws, a USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds, but Republican support has fallen significantly as the issue takes on a stronger partisan cast than it did a few years ago.

In the poll, taken in the wake of two mass shootings in the span of a week, 65% overall say gun laws should be stricter – a sizable majority but one that has fallen by 7 percentage points from a USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll taken in August 2019.

The 54% support among Republicans two years ago has plummeted to 35%. Democratic support has stayed about the same, now at 90%. 

A woman consoles a King Soopers pharmacy technician after a shooting at the grocery store in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo: Michael Ciaglo via Denver Gazette)

“This is much more about a shift in the Republican base, and their leadership, than about the issue itself,” Ipsos President Cliff Young says. “In these highly tribalized times, cues from leadership become especially important in how the public forms their stance around issues. The partisan cuing around gun reforms has changed among Republican leadership, and the Republican base has followed suit.”

The online poll of 1,005 adults, taken Tuesday and Wednesday, has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 points.

The double-digit decline in GOP support eases the political pressure on Republican officials to endorse new gun laws. Now the largest group of the party’s voters, a 44% plurality, say current gun laws are “about right.”

The findings underscore the rocky terrain ahead for two measures passed this month by the Democratic-controlled House to tighten background checks of gun buyers and to give the FBI more time to vet them. Even advocates acknowledge that prevailing in the evenly divided Senate — where 60 votes would be needed to break a filibuster and bring the proposals to a vote — seems a distant prospect.

That said, 61% of Americans say they want the Senate to pass the House bills, including Democrats by a wide margin. A bipartisan majority backed the legislation in 2019, but now Republicans are evenly split. 

The survey was taken after a mass shooting last week killed eight people, including six Asian women, at three spas in the Atlanta area. On Monday, another shooting killed 10 people, including a police officer, at a grocery store in Boulder.  

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