Americans are divided over what causes gun violence and, to a lesser degree, how best to stop it, according to a new national poll conducted by the Deseret News and HarrisX. Republicans and independent voters are more likely to think mental health is to blame, while Democrats point to lax gun regulations as the primary cause.
The poll shows strong agreement that gun violence is a problem in the U.S., and Americans of all political stripes want lawmakers to do more to reduce gun deaths. But respondents were somewhat divided along partisan lines over what solutions policymakers should pursue. Republicans and Democrats are also concerned about different kinds of gun violence, which may also be driving their responses on what policies would work best to reduce gun deaths.
While 31% of Republicans and 32% of independents said mental health is most to blame for gun violence in the U.S., 42% of Democrats said lax gun regulations are to blame. Only 8% of all respondents said insufficient policing is the biggest factor in gun violence, while just 4% said gun violence isn’t a problem.
There was strong support for putting in place policies that would prevent violent people from buying guns, with 7 in 10 voters saying they believed this would lower gun deaths. This choice was popular among Republicans, Democrats and independents. Making meaningful investments in mental health and having extensive background checks received similar support.
But there was a split over whether the minimum age for buying a gun should be raised to 25, with 67% of Democrats saying they think this would reduce gun deaths, while only 39% of Republicans agreed. There was a similar split over whether or not the government should have a gun “buy back” program.
Respondents were also asked what they thought of the bipartisan gun legislation passed by Congress earlier this year in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting, which left 31 people dead, including 19 children. About half of Americans think the legislation will reduce gun deaths in the U.S., with 62% of Democrats and 41% of Republicans agreeing.
In terms of what is the biggest threat to the physical well-being of Americans, Democrats, younger voters and people living in urban areas are more worried about mass shootings, while older respondents, Republicans and people living in rural areas are more worried about street crime. On mass shooting, 36% of Democrats said this was the biggest threat, while 39% of Republicans said street crime.
The national poll was conducted on Oct. 11-12, among 933 registered voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.