Roanoke College Reviews Poll Results Related to Gun Control

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The special session of the Virginia Assembly convening on July 9 was called by Governor Ralph Northam to address several issues related to gun violence. Although the session was short–lived, this is an opportune time to review polling on the general issue of firearm regulation conducted by The Roanoke College Poll over the past several years.

Opinion has been fairly consistent on most firearm-related issues over time for those questions for which we have multiple data points. On the generic question balancing gun owner rights and gun control, there appears to be a slight shift in the past two years in favor of gun control.

Public opinion favors many of the restrictions being proposed by Gov. Northam, though there are anticipated differences between those who own guns and those who do not. At the same time, most Virginians do not blame weak gun laws for shootings, and they are ambivalent at best regarding the efficacy of stricter gun laws.

Note: although some of these results date from as early as 2013 and it is likely that results would be similar today because opinion on those questions for which we have longitudinal data has remained consistent. This is an issue where few people seem to change their minds. If these questions followed the trend for the generic question, then there may have been a shift of a few points in favor of stricter laws over those years. It is unlikely that opinion shifted drastically in either direction.

The pollsters state that they “hope that these results will aid both elected officials and those who try to explain these issues to the public. We have reported here all of the questions asked in the Roanoke College Poll from the past several years that are relevant to the issues being raised in the special session. We did not cherry-pick any questions or responses from any particular year. We hope that others will follow our lead.”

QUESTIONS:

Finally, which do you think is more important – to protect the right of Americans to own guns, OR to control gun ownership?

Protect owners            Control guns               Unsure/Refused

Feb. 2019                    44%                             47%                             9%

Aug. 2018                   44%                             48%                             8%

May 2018                    46%                             44%                             9%

Jan. 2016                     50%                             41%                             9%

Jan. 2015                     50%                             42%                             7%

Regardless of your vote intention, please tell me if you think Ed Gillespie or Ralph Northam would do a better job as governor on the following issues. Issues related to guns?

Gillespie                      Northam                      Unsure/Refused

Nov. 2017       45%                             39%                             16%

The election was tied in this poll

Oct. 2017        43%                             43%                             15%

Northam led by 6 points in this poll

Regardless of your vote intention, please tell me if you think Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would do a better job as president on the following issues. Issues related to guns?

Clinton                        Trump                          Unsure/Refused

Sept. 2016       43%                             48%                             10%

Clinton led by 7 points in this poll

Aug. 2016       47%                             43%                             11%

Clinton led by 16 points in this poll

February 2016

As you may know, Attorney General Mark Herring recently announced that Virginia would no longer recognize concealed handgun carry permits from states, including several states that border Virginia, arguing that those states standards are not as strict as those required to obtain a permit in Virginia. Many of those states will now not recognize permits issued by Virginia. Do you agree or disagree with Mr. Herring’s decision?

Agree 42%

Disagree 49%

Unsure 8%

Refused 1%

Governor McAuliffe recently issued an Executive Order banning firearms from state-owned executive buildings. Do you agree or disagree with Mr. McAuliffe’s decision?

Agree 59%

Disagree 34%

Unsure 6%

Refused 1%

In general, do you favor or oppose the following regulations on firearms? Requiring background checks for all firearms sales at gun shows including those guns sold by private citizens?

Favor               Oppose            Unsure             Refused

Jan. 2016         86%                 11%                 2%                   1%

Jan. 2015         88%                 8%                   3%                   1%

Jan. 2014         85%                 14%                 1%                   1%

July 2013        84%                 11%                 2%                   3%

April 2013       84%                 11%                 3%                   2%

Jan. 2013         86%                 10%                 3%                   2%

Requiring background checks for all firearms sales including those between two private citizens?

Favor               Oppose            Unsure             Refused

Jan. 2016         75%                 21%                 3%                   1%

Jan. 2015         75%                 17%                 6%                   2%

Jan. 2014         75%                 23%                 1%                   0%

July 2013        69%                 23%                 5%                   3%

April 2013       73%                 22%                 3%                   2%

Jan. 2013         75%                 19%                 4%                   2%

The Roanoke College Poll is funded by Roanoke College as a public service.

January 2013 (gun control was a major focus of this poll)

Now I have several questions related to guns and gun violence. Which do you think is more likely to reduce gun violence–better enforcement of existing gun laws or tougher gun laws?

All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

Better enforcement     53%                 66%                             46%

Tougher laws              38%                 24%                             46%

Unsure /Refused         10%                 10%                             8%

Which of the following do you think is MOST responsible for mass shootings like those in Newtown , CT and Virginia Tech–weak gun laws, poor enforcement of gun laws, violent media such as movies and video games, poor policies to deal with mental illness, or that we simply cannot stop those who want to kill others? You may choose up to two. [PERCENTS ADD TO OVER 100]

 All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

Weak gun laws           21%                 16%                             24%

Poor enforcement

of laws            26%                 24%                             26%

Violent media             28%                 26%                             29%

Mental illness              56%                 57%                             54%

Can’t stop killers         38%                 45%                             33%

Unsure/Refused          7%                   8%                               7%

One proposal to make schools safer is to have armed police or security guards at each school. Do you favor or oppose this idea?

  All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

Favor                           62%                 69%                             58%

Oppose                        30%                 25%                             34%

Unsure/Refused          8%                   6%                               9%

Another idea is to allow those teachers and administrators who are trained and willing to carry firearms in schools. Do you favor or oppose this idea?

 All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

Favor                           35%                 46%                             29%

Oppose                        58%                 49%                             65%

Unsure/Refused          6%                   5%                               6%

Do you think it is more likely that a gun in the possession of a law-abiding citizen would be used for self-defense purposes or that it would somehow accidentally injure or kill another person?

  All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

Self-defense                59%                 77%                             51%

Accidental shooting    26%                 14%                             32%

Unsure/Refused          15%                 9%                               17%

In general, do you favor or oppose the following regulations on firearms:

Requiring background checks for all firearms sales at gun shows including those guns sold by private citizens?

 All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

Favor                           86%                 84%                             89%

Oppose                        10%                 12%                             7%

Unsure/Refused          5%                   8%                               4%

Requiring background checks for all firearms sales including those between two private citizens?

All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

Favor                           75%                 65%                             84%

Oppose                        19%                 27%                             12%

Unsure/Refused          6%                   8%                               4%

Registration of all guns with government.

All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

Favor                           61%                 46%                             71%

Oppose                        34%                 50%                             23%

Unsure/Refused          6%                   5%                               6%

Requiring all gun owners to get a license from the government.

All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

Favor                           59%                 37%                             73%

Oppose                        35%                 59%                             21%

Unsure/Refused          6%                   4%                               7%

Do you think that stricter gun control laws would make you personally more safe, less safe, or would they make no difference?

 All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

More safe                    34%                 21%                             43%

Less safe                     12%                 22%                             5%

No difference              50%                 56%                             48%

Unsure/Refused          4%                   2%                               4%

Do you favor or oppose banning the sale of the following:

Semi-automatic rifles

 All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

Favor                           48%                 33%                             58%

Oppose                        46%                 62%                             35%

Unsure/Refused          7%                   5%                               7%

Semi-automatic shotguns

  All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

Favor                           41%                 22%                             54%

Oppose                        50%                 73%                             38%

Unsure/Refused          8%                   5%                               9%

Assault rifles

All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

Favor                           58%                 46%                             66%

Oppose                        35%                 48%                             28%

Unsure/Refused          7%                   6%                               7%

Semi-automatic handguns

All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

Favor                           42%                 25%                             54%

Oppose                        50%                 72%                             38%

Unsure/Refused          8%                   3%                               9%

All guns

All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

Favor                           16%                 6%                               21%

Oppose                        78%                 91%                             73%

Unsure/Refused          7%                   4%                               6%

Magazines that hold more than 10 bullets

 All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

Favor                           53%                 42%                             61%

Oppose                        40%                 53%                             32%

Unsure/Refused          7%                   5%                               7%

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.                                    All                   Gun owners                 Non-gun owners

Agree                          44%                 59%                             36%

Disagree                      49%                 36%                             56%

Unsure/Refused          8%                   5%                               7%

For more about the Institute for Public Opinion Research, click here.