Few Americans Blame Political Climate for Arizona Shooting

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Angus Reid: More than a third of respondents expect more events similar to the Arizona shooting to happen in America over the next few months.

Many Americans are following news stories related to the shooting that took place in Arizona just a few days ago, and more than half believe that the incident is not related to the current political climate in the United States, a new Vision Critical poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative sample of 1,008 American adults, 73 per cent of respondents say they are following news related to the shooting “very closely” or “moderately closely.”

The shooting took place near Tucson, Arizona, on Jan. 8, as Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords held a meeting with constituents. A 22-year-old man, Jared Lee Loughner, faces five federal charges, including the attempted assassination of Giffords.

A majority of respondents (51%) believe the shooting is the result of an individual’s actions and should be regarded as an isolated incident, while a smaller proportion (31%) think the shooting is the result of the current negative tone of politics in America.

However, more than a third of Americans (37%) say they expect more events similar to the Arizona shooting to happen in the U.S. over the next few months.

President Barack Obama gets good marks for his handling of the aftermath of the Arizona shooting, with 56 per cent of respondents saying they are satisfied with his actions. The Media in America gets a slightly lower rating, with 50 per cent voicing satisfaction with the way it has covered the incident.

Views on Gun Laws

This Vision Critical survey asked the same questions that were included in an Angus Reid study on gun laws in June 2010. In all, 85 per cent of Americans say that the Second Amendment guarantees the rights of individuals to keep and bear arms, while only eight per cent disagree with this assessment.

Across the country, 45 per cent of respondents say they are satisfied with existing federal regulations related to firearm ownership, while 41 per cent are dissatisfied. Half of Americans (50%) say they would prefer to have stricter firearms laws—including 65 per cent of Democrats and 51 per cent of Independents. About one-in-four respondents (27%) would retain the existing regulations, including two-in-five Republicans (44%).

While Americans continue to reject the possibility of semi-automatic firearms being available for every American who is eligible to own firearms (only 23% support this idea), more than two-thirds believe that handguns (70%) and rifles or shotguns (73%) should remain legal.

On the question of concealed carry—where states have enacted different regulations—almost half of respondents (47%) agree with the notion that citizens should be granted a permit to carry a concealed weapon if they meet specific criteria laid out in the law. Fewer Americans are in favour of banning people from carrying concealed weapons (24%), issuing permits based on the recommendation of local authorities (16%), or allowing people to carry concealed weapons without a permit (9%).

Analysis

When this survey’s responses are compared with the findings of the June 2010 survey, there is very little fluctuation on the way Americans feel about firearms regulations. The interpretation of the Second Amendment remains practically universal, and the “shall-issue” approach for carrying firearms in public—which entails granting permits under specific legal criteria—continues to be the most popular option across the country. The only noticeable change comes from Independents, whose support for stricter firearms regulations has increased by ten points.

Republicans and Independents are definitely more likely than Democrats to look at the events of Jan. 8 as an isolated incident. However, about two-in-five Democrats and Independents expect similar events to happen in the United States, compared to three-in-ten Republicans. The thesis that the current political climate led to the Arizona shooting is rejected by a majority of Americans, who point the finger solely at the alleged perpetrator.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)