Quinnipiac University’s poll, conducted March 7, found that 88 percent of those surveyed support such checks while 10 percent oppose them. Among gun owners, that number is 85-13 percent, respectively.
At the state level the support for background checks is even higher. This is what the university’s researchers found:
- In Florida there is 91 to 8 percent support; among gun owners, that backing is 88 to 11 percent;
- In Connecticut, where 26 people were murdered in December by a gunman in Newtown, it is 93 to 6 percent support. Gun owners there give the nod to background checks 89 to 9 percent;
- In Ohio, there is 90 to 8 percent support, with gun owners giving the go signal 86 to 12 percent;
- Pennsylvania backs the concept 95 to 5 percent. So too, do gun owners in that state 95 to 4 percent;
- Like the others, New Jersey supports it 96 to 3 percent. The support is just as high among gun owners, 95 to 5 percent; and
- Virginia is behind it 92 to 7 percent, with gun owners favoring background checks 91 to 7 percent.
This could be welcome news for Democratic lawmakers in the Senate who are now creating a gun legislation package that includes a proposal to expand background checks. Current law exempts firearms sales not conducted by a licensed dealer.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said his caucus bill will include provisions for school safety and gun trafficking.
“I hope negotiations will continue over the upcoming break to reach a bipartisan compromise on background checks, and I am hopeful that they will succeed,” he said. “If a compromise is reached, I am open to including it in the base bill. But I want to be clear: in order to be effective, any bill that passes the Senate must include background checks.”
Reid said the bill introduced last night will serve to open debate. Once that process is under way, the Nevada Democrat hopes to get a vote on other gun control measures such as an assault weapons ban bill -- recently shot down because it stands to fail among Republicans -- limits to high-capacity magazines, and provision dealing with mental health.
“In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for all of these provisions to receive votes,” Reid said, “and I will ensure that they do.”
While the polls are showing overwhelming support for the type of gun control measures Democrats have proposed, a National Journal article argues that the survey make not take into consideration the nuances of public opinion. That includes the level of passion among voters on each side of the debate, which may be dependent on where respondents live.
“People will support this and they think it’s a good idea, but they don’t feel super deeply about it,” Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, director of social policy and politics for Third Way, a Washington think tank, told the Wall Street Journal. “They’re not convinced that it will necessarily work and that it will work to change their own lives.”