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Poll: Support for controlling gun violence hits its highest point in a decade

A child lights candles at a memorial for the victims of a May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 21 people, mostly children.
Alex Wong
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A child lights candles at a memorial for the victims of a May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 21 people, mostly children.

Following the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and an earlier one in Buffalo, N.Y., a majority of U.S. adults say it's more important to control gun violence than to protect gun rights, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

The 59%-to-35% margin is the widest in favor of controlling gun violence recorded in a decade in the Marist poll, though the numbers are similar to what Marist has found over the last four years since the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.

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As expected, the new poll finds a sharp partisan divide — 92% of Democrats and 54% of independents say it's more important to control gun violence, while 70% of Republicans say it's more important to protect gun rights.

Notably, however, 56% of gun owners say it is more important to curb gun violence than protect gun rights.

The survey of 1,063 adults was conducted May 31 through June 6 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percentage points. (The Uvalde shooting took place May 24.) There were 977 registered voters interviewed. Where voters are referred to, answers have a +/- 4.5 percentage point margin of error. The survey was conducted with live callers, who interviewed respondents via landline and cellphone. Results were balanced to reflect 2019 U.S. Census estimates for age, gender, income, race and region.

About three-quarters of respondents said mass shootings make them more likely to vote in November. Democrats are almost 20 points more likely to say so than Republicans and independents (84%, vs. 65% for Republicans and 66% for independents).

Majorities of voters said they would definitely vote for candidates who want to increase mental health funding (86%), require stricter background checks (82%), support red flag laws (74%), want stricter gun laws generally (60%) and ban assault-style weapons, like AK-47s and AR-15s (56%).

But when it comes to independents, they are split on an assault-style weapons ban — 48% said they would definitely not vote for a candidate who wants a ban, and 45% said they would.

Red flag laws allow police or family members to request that a judge temporarily remove guns from a person who may be a danger to others or themselves. They have passed in multiple states, but there isn't a federal version of such a law.

Bipartisan gun-control negotiations on Capitol Hill include debate over this kind of a law. The talks aren't focused on broader measures, like universal background checks or banning assault-style weapons, as most Republicans are opposed.

On a measure championed by gun rights activists, just 38% said they would definitely vote for a candidate who wants to allow teachers to carry guns. Fewer — 27% — said they would for a candidate who receives contributions from the National Rifle Association.

There's a notable partisan split here with 8 in 10 Democrats saying they would vote against a candidate who supports letting teachers carry guns, but 7 in 10 Republicans would vote for that candidate.

It's similar when it comes to NRA contributions, with 8 in 10 Democrats saying they would definitely vote against someone who receives them, but 6 in 10 Republicans saying the opposite.

And independents again largely split on both questions with many unsure.

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Biden's approval continues to suffer

Even though voters say they are in favor of many gun laws Democratic elected leaders are pushing for, President Biden does not appear to be benefiting.

Biden's approval is at its lowest point in the Marist poll since taking office, at just 38%.

There are major warning signs here for the White House, as not only do a whopping 93% of Republicans disapprove of the job he's doing, but so do 58% of independents, and only 77% of Democrats approve.

What's more, Biden continues to suffer from a lack of intensity among his base. Respondents were nearly three times as likely to strongly disapprove of Biden's job performance (40%) than strongly approve (14%).

These numbers show Biden has become a polarizing figure who is not firing up his base.

It's perhaps not surprising, however, with gas prices up and inflation continuing to rise. Pocketbook issues in politics often take precedence over almost anything else — and voters tend to blame the president when they are feeling the pinch.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.