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Rutgers-Eagleton Poll: New Jerseyans Worry About Gun Violence
Respondents prefer controlling gun ownership to protecting owner rights
ATTENTION POLITICAL, ASSIGNMENT EDITORS, Professor David Redlawsk may be contacted at 319-400-1134, 732-932-9384, ext. 285, or firstname.lastname@example.org until 11 p.m. Visit http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~redlawsk/EP/Tables2013/EmbargoRelease.html for questions and tables during embargo. For additional commentary, visit http://eagletonpollblog.wordpress.com. Follow the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RutgersEagletonPoll and Twitter@EagletonPoll.
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Two-thirds of New Jersey’s registered voters are “very concerned” about the scope of gun violence in America, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. released today. The poll, taken both before and after the Aug. 24 Empire State Building shooting, also finds 65 percent of voters think controlling gun ownership is more important than protecting gun owner rights. Voters are split, however, on whether America has become more violent (42 percent) or if violence is simply more visible in the news (48 percent).
Among the 22 percent of respondents with a gun in their household, a majority (53 percent) is very concerned over gun violence, while 41 percent agree that controlling ownership is more important than gun owner rights.
Nearly half of voters think New Jersey guns laws should be made stricter, though only 28 percent in households with guns are on board with tightening state laws; a plurality (40 percent) of these voters prefer gun laws remain unchanged.
“With the high-profile shootings in Colorado and the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, it seemed time to revisit the question of gun control,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Interestingly, people we talked to after the Empire State Building shooting were no more concerned about gun violence than those we talked to beforehand. The evening after the shooting, we got a slight increase in support for gun owner rights, opposite of what we expected, and people were more likely to say violence is not on the rise, just more visible in the news.”
Results are from a poll of 916 registered voters conducted statewide among landline and cell phone households from Aug. 23-25. The poll was in the field when the Empire State Building shooting occurred on Aug. 24. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.
Concern about gun violence especially strong in urban New Jersey
Concern over gun violence statewide has climbed somewhat since 60 percent expressed “a lot” of concern when Eagleton last polled in 1999. Voters in the northeastern urban areas of the state and in the south Jersey/Philadelphia area counties are most worried, with about three-quarters “very concerned” about gun violence in America. Residents of shore counties follow right behind at 71 percent, while 60 percent of suburban and 52 percent of northwestern (exurban) New Jerseyans are very concerned. Ninety-one percent of black voters are “very concerned” while 60 percent of whites feel the same. Older voters also are much more worried: 74 percent of those 65 and over report being very concerned, while 47 percent of voters under 30 feel the same.
Women express greater concern than men, 73 percent to 57 percent. Those with guns in their home are much less likely to be very concerned about gun violence, though a majority (53 percent) still takes this position, compared to 70 percent of those without guns.
“With recent gun violence taking a center stage in the news, it is slightly surprising that the level of concern has changed relatively little since 1999,” said Redlawsk. “At the same time, it is already pretty high for many groups, especially those most likely to face violence personally because of where they live.”
Voters are split on whether there really has been more gun violence in recent years, or if violence is simply more visible in the news. Nearly half think news visibility has increased, while 42 percent see a real increase in gun violence. In 1999, the numbers were reversed: 51 percent believed there had been more gun violence while 42 percent thought visibility had increased.
Those most concerned about gun violence are much more likely to think violence is real and has increased: 54 percent say violence is up. More than two-thirds of less-concerned voters think news coverage has made the problem more visible.
Garden Staters continue to support gun control
Nearly two-thirds of New Jersey voters say controlling gun ownership is more important than gun owner rights. This represents a decline since 1999, when 73 percent preferred gun control over gun owner rights. Today, 72 percent without guns at home say gun control is more important than owner rights, 31 points higher than voters in gun-owning households.
“The stereotype is that those with guns want nothing to do with restricting their rights,” said Redlawsk. “Here, that also appears mostly true. While many with guns say gun ownership should be controlled, a majority thinks owners’ rights should trump. Overall, we’ve seen a small move toward the gun owner rights position over time.”
Republicans, at 45 percent, are evenly split on the issue. Democrats overwhelmingly choose gun control over owner rights, 82 percent to 11 percent. By about a 2 to 1 margin, independent voters favor control over owners’ rights. Unsurprisingly, as concern for gun violence increases, so does support for gun control generally. Three-quarters of those very concerned about violence think gun control is more important than owner rights, while only a quarter of unconcerned voters agree.
“Concern over violence, driven in part by where people live, also leads them to support gun control,” said Redlawsk. “Those who are closest to the violence are strongest gun control advocates. Those living further away, and gun owners, are much more interested in gun owner rights.”
New Jersey laws should be tightened
Voters prefer to see the state’s gun laws tightened: 47 percent want stricter laws while 11 percent want them more lax. Twenty-eight percent prefer the status quo. While a plurality would tighten laws, the percentage is down from the 58 percent who wanted stricter laws in 1999.
Black voters are much more likely than whites to call for increasingly strict gun laws, 63 percent to 39 percent. Age makes little difference, but gender matters. Women favor stricter laws by 14 points. Forty percent of gun owners prefer the status quo and 24 percent want state laws to be relaxed further. More than half (54 percent) without guns want state laws tightened further.
“While New Jersey is less supportive of gun rights than many places, there has been a conservative trend over the past decade,” noted Redlawsk. “More people are concerned about violence. Most still want gun control, but the number favoring fewer restrictions has clearly grown.”
More than half (54 percent) of respondents prefer gun laws to be managed at the federal level compared with 41 percent who would rather leave legislation to the states. Most Republicans (63 percent) want state-level laws, while 69 percent of Democrats favor federal laws. Independents favor the federal approach, 53 percent to 42 percent.
Gun ownership varies regionally
Gun ownership patterns show significant regional variation, with exurban (29 percent) and shore households (26 percent) most likely to have guns, followed by south Jersey/Philadelphia (24 percent), suburban (18 percent) and urban households (17 percent). Whites are more likely to live in households with guns, at 25 percent, while 14 percent of blacks report at least one gun in the home.
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