Most Americans would agree that the June 12 shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that left about 50 people dead was unequivocally a tragedy. But further interpretations of the incident vary by political party.
A Gallup poll released Friday showed that 79 percent of Republicans defined the massacre as an act of Islamic terrorism, while 60 percent of Democrats declared it an act of domestic gun violence. The survey, taken Sunday and Monday, found that independents were split.
"Whether the Orlando incident was inspired by Islamic terrorism or the actions of a killer able to obtain guns is a debate that cannot be easily settled and, regardless, does nothing to diminish the tragedy of the event," Gallup wrote. "But it is clear that Americans' political views influence how they interpret the tragedy and, by extension, shape their views of the policies leaders should pursue to prevent similar incidents."
Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old born in the United States to Afghan parents, opened fire outside of Orlando's Pulse nightclub at 2 a.m. EDT Sunday. After exchanging bullets with police, Mateen went inside, where he took hostages and killed 49 people. During the massacre, he called 911 to pledge his loyalty to the Islamic State group.
Investigations into the gunman's motive and background are still ongoing, especially given the fact that he was interviewed twice by the FBI a few years ago. But there's disagreement over what to call the shooting.
In the days following the attack, lawmakers across the country made statements condemning the violence. The New York Times noted that Democrats, including presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, tended to call the incident a mass shooting, making sure to mention the weapons Mateen used (a semiautomatic AR15-style rifle and a semiautomatic pistol). Republicans like presumptive nominee Donald Trump tended to focus on the terrorism aspect. Both called it an act of terror and hate and sent prayers to the victims.
"If there was ever a moment for all of us to reflect and reaffirm our most basic beliefs that everybody counts and everybody has dignity, now's the time," President Barack Obama said Thursday. "It's a good time for all of to us reflect on how we treat each other and to insist on respect and equality for every human being."
Opinions diverged on how to address the massacre, as well. In the Gallup poll, about 80 percent of respondents said banning gun sales to people who appear on no-fly terrorist watch lists would be a somewhat or very effective way to prevent other Orlando-like attacks. About two-thirds said the same for increasing airstrikes against the Islamic State group.
The poll included responses from 1,201 people living in the United States and over age 18. The margin of sampling error was +/- 4 percentage points.