Poll: Americans, Especially Young Ones, Say People "Should Be Allowed" to Own Assault Weapons

The recent Reason-Rupe poll finds a slim majority of Americans favor allowing private ownership of assault weapons, 44 percent say Americans should be prohibited from owning these types of firearms. Support is drawn down partisan lines with 68 percent of Republicans opposing an assault weapons ban and 62 percent of Democrats in support of such a ban. Independents tend to agree with Republicans with 57 to 37 percent.

Young Americans ages 18-24 are more supportive of private ownership of assault weapons with 70 percent saying Americans should be allowed to own assault weapons; 27 percent think they should be prohibited. In fact, majorities support allowing Americans to own assault weapons among those under 54. In contrast, older Americans believe assault weapons should be prohibited by a 23-point margin 58 percent to 36 percent.

Americans more familiar with firearms are also more likely to oppose prohibiting private ownership of assault weapons. For instance, 56 percent of Americans who say they personally have a firearm support private ownership. Support increases to 79 percent among Americans who both they and another member of their household own a firearm. In contrast, among households who do not own firearms, 55 percent believe assault weapons should be prohibited.

Wording Matters

These results are particularly surprising given that other national polls find majority support for federal bans of assault weapons. Even though the Reason-Rupe poll uses the same pollster as the Pew Research Center, asked a different way, Pew finds majority support for a ban on assault style weapons 55 to 40 percent. This suggests that question wording can significantly impact what considerations are brought to mind when respondents answer questions and thus impact their responses.

The following chart compares various question wording and subsequent responses for CNN/ORC, Gallup, ABC/Washington Post, AP/GfK, Fox News, Gallup/USAToday, and the Pew Research Center polls conducted within the past month. Some, but not all, of the questions finding majority support for an assault weapons ban explicitly prime respondents to consider the potential for a ban to curb gun violence. Others solely prime considerations of limiting access. In contrast, the Reason-Rupe wording ostensibly primed considerations of both limiting and allowing access. Plausibly, when respondents considered both prohibiting and allowing an activity this additional consideration bolstered support for private ownership of assault weapons. Regardless, response variability across polls demonstrates support for an assault weapons ban is not as clear cut as some may have previously thought.

Nationwide telephone poll conducted January 17th-21st 2013 interviewed 1000 adults on both mobile (500) and landline (500) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.8%. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full methodology can be found here. Full poll results found here.

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  • Jeff||

    Eat shit, old people!

  • Restoras||

    Too bad not enough of these people live in NY.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Wording Matters

    No shit.

  • R C Dean||

    Wording Matters

    Unless, of course, you're talking about clips v. magazines. Then its all pedanticy.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Clip? Is that those guys that wear blue bandannas?

  • Anomalous||

    Pedantry. Because wording matters.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    Wording AND phrasing matters and the slimesters know this. Consider Quebec's referendum question back in 1995:

    “Do you accept that Quebec should become sovereign, after having formally offered Canada a new economic and political partnership, within the scope of the legislation on the future of Quebec and the agreement signed on June 12, 1995?”

    That was the morons in the Parti-Quebecois way of asking: Do you want to be an independent country?"

    As in, do you want to break up Canada?

    Wording it that way brought them within whiskers of winning. Imagine that, a bunch of anti-business, anti-liberty, parochial yokels with no plan of action and no money almost unilaterally knocked Canada out.

  • ||

    It's an accurate way of asking "If we decide to leave, you gonna let us?" There's nothing "slimy" about that, unless you think people not bothering to read something is "slimy".

  • Cyto||

    Although not the most egregious example, the wording is fairly opaque. "Should Quebec leave Canada and become an independent nation" would be more honest and very unlikely to be misinterpreted.

    Living in a ballot-initiative state (FL), I'm well aware of the obtuse wording of many of these proposals. Most require going to media or watchdog sources to interpret the real meaning of the proposal.

    Frequently they will have wording that gives the impression that they mean exactly the opposite of what they intend. These offenders are usually backed by well-organized interest groups like unions that can mobilize their membership. The public campaign will never mention the purpose of the proposal, just a slogan to "Vote YES on 43!" usually followed by "For our jobs!" or "For our children!" or "For our future!"

    If you want to know why Florida brings up the rear on election night... there's your answer. Several pages of obtuse ballot initiative summaries to vote on. Unless you studied hard in advance or brought in your union/party/interest-group provided voter guide to tell you how to vote by each number, you'll be there for at least a half-hour just to read the things(and that's if you are well educated and fairly bright - something that doesn't really cover a large chunk of the electorate).

  • anon||

    "Phrasing!"

    -Sterling Archer

  • Rich||

    "'Assault weapons'? Can you be more specific?"

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    I'm actually surprised that none of the lefty polls didn't just ask "Should we ban military grade death sprayers"

    I expect bias in the media, but the flagrant misinformation being purposely spread about these guns is appalling. I actually had to have a discussion with one of my lib friends, explaining to her that NO, no matter what Diane Feinstein tells you, civilians can't just go buy grenades to lob out of their "death machines". The semi/full auto misinformation is bad enough, but people actually believe that I could go down to the gun store, buy a quick attachment for my AR and start lobbing grenades at random crowds...

  • An0nB0t||

    Between this latest bit of open dishonesty (Sawyer leading Giffords in her interview being the low-water mark), the George Zimmerman case, and Jackson/Sharpton being given shows on mainstream news channels, I've given up on virtually all cable news.

    It's always been little more than entertainment disguised as information, but now there's not even the slightest pretense that it's anything other than propaganda.

  • KPres||

    "Wording Matters"

    I saw one of these polls that asked something like "Do you support PRESIDENT OBAMA'S proposal to ban assault rifles?", and the support was at like 65%. INOW, name-dropping Obama told all his sheep how they were supposed to answer.

  • mr lizard||

    Thank you GTA, and Call of Duty for the youth vote. Btw am I the only Street Fighter II era gamer that couldn't make the transition to full 3D?

  • BlueBook||

    You're not the only one. It varies from game to game; I find the indoor shooters the worst, producing motion sickness symptoms within minutes. The more open, outdoorsy games are better, especially when you can camp out as a sniper and relax.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Other than the CNN/ORC poll question, which is very pushy, and the Fox News poll, which is using the wrong terminology, none of the questions seem that far out of line.

  • Cyto||

    They should consider asking control questions like:

    "Please tell me if you would favor or oppose the following proposals which some people have made to reduce the amount of gun violence...

    * Fingerprinting and DNA sampling of all males aged 18-34, who have been shown to commit the vast majority of all gun crimes.

    * Increasing funding to the Department of Education to strengthen security in our schools in the face of epidemic increases in school shootings.

    * Banning the use of television and radio for "hate speech", which has been shown to precipitate gun violence such as the shooting of US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

  • GregMax||

    How about this:

    "Do you know the difference between a right, an entitlement and a privilege?"

    If no, WAKE UP.

  • Cyto||

    Semi-Automatic Assault Guns (tm) such as the AK-47?

    While the AK-47 is the most widely used assault rifle in the world, it is not commonly manufactured as a semi-automatic rifle (although there are semi-auto variants) and as such is illegal in the US regardless of the "assault weapons ban" under discussion. The wording of this question should definitely disqualify any results produced by the poll and call into question the motives and or competence of the pollsters at CNN/ORC.

  • R C Dean||

    Ding. Ding. Ding.

    How many times have you seen semi-auto AK clones referred to as "AK-47s" by idiot/DemOp news stories? They want people to think these are the exact same rifles that they see jihadis sprayin' and prayin' with on evening news. Lying fucks.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Haven't you seen Boyz in the Hood? All gang bangers have full auto ak47s that they fire indiscriminately out there car windows. People actually think this is true and that is what we are talking about.

  • Loki||

    That is easily the most appalling example given. I threw up in my mouth a little when I read that one. CNN seems determined to out retard MSNBC on the gun control issue.

  • R C Dean||

    The other thing about the wording on these questions is the use of passive voice ("Do you think people should be prohibited") versus the more accurate active voice ("Do you think the federal government should outlaw " or "Do you think the federal government should seize" or "Do you think the federal government should arrest and prosecute").

  • AlmightyJB||

    Are you for banning flash suppressors?
    What's that?
    Are you for banning bayonet lugs?
    What are those?
    Are you for banning pistol grips on rifles?
    Why?
    Are you for banning Assault Rifles?
    Hell Yes?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Last ? should have been !

  • Cyto||

    If you wanted to limit injuries and deaths due to gun violence involving 'assault rifles' you might be better off requiring that all of these be included on every assault rifle. I'm not sure you could hit the broad side of a barn with a 40 pound flash suppressed, bayonetted, 30 round magazine carrying, pistol gripped assault rifle. Might do well to require full-time full auto (minimum 850 rounds per minute, cyclic) as well. Good luck hitting anything other than the ceiling with that monstrosity.

  • Anomalous||

    It's the folding stocks that make them weapons of mass destruction.

  • Loki||

    Some, but not all, of the questions finding majority support for an assault weapons ban explicitly prime respondents to consider the potential for a ban to curb gun violence deliberately and blatantly play on idiots emotional reaponses to certain loaded, scary sounding words words.

    FTFY.

  • GILMORE||

    This is enormous horseshit on multiple levels=

    - Why use the term 'assault weapon' at all? THERE'S NO SUCH THING. If there is - under any reasonable measure - they're the thing that are *already illegal*: i.e. fully-automatic firearms. Asking people's opinion on a fictitious concept reveals exactly nothing, since you have no idea what the respondent actually conceives of as an 'Assault weapon'

    - a fair way to ask the question is more along the lines, "Do you support proposed restrictions on semi-automatic firearms, whether or not they produce any greater degree of safety from criminals?"

    - asking the question, " whether should people be *allowed... to own X, Y, or Z" overlooks the reality that it is by law not a matter of "allowance" - i.e. a privilege which the State grants - but rather whether the Government should enact *restrictions* to existing rights held by people since the inception of the country

    Everything I see about this survey is a intentional series of misdirections and conflations to produce some kind of citable "data" implying support for a policy that isn't even detailed or articulated in the survey itself

  • Henry II||

    Next survey question: "Should citizens be allowed to own white sharks for lasers for eyes and that shoot killer bees out of their mouths?"

  • AlmightyJB||

    Duh. Yeah.

  • Tejicano||

    In light of all the spurious polls that are being taken to "flesh out" this issue the questions I would like to see posed are :

    "How much effect do you believe gun restrictions have on criminal mis-use of firearms?"

    "What do you think an assault weapon is? a) a machinegun, b) a rifle designed for nothing but killing large numbers of people, c) a rifle exactly like the rifles issued to military troops, d) an effective self defense tool"

    I can think of a couple others but those two would tell a lot about what Americans think and know.

  • Albertus Magnus||

    Will this ban Predator Drones? Because I just ordered one from amazon. The shipping was free because it was over $25.00, but I think the return shipping will be closer to $40,000.

  • CZmacure||

    1) To reduce assault style rifle violence mandate that owners must keep their weapons away from minors and disturbed individuals in the home or face severe civil and criminal consequences with mandatory prison time. Let your son go to school with your AR-10, AR-15, high capacity assault styled weapon because you didn't lock it away from him then lose your savings, your home and your freedom. If you locked it up and he stole it, then you are not culpable. But you run the risk to trust him or not. This would not include handguns.

    2) To reduce handgun related violence declare the Bloods, Crips, MS13, Hells Angels, mafia, .... demonstrably violent gangs.... as TERRORISTS. Treat them like enemy combatants. Use the NDAA 2012 and extended Patriot Act against them. Sure we have too many people in prison and yet our crime rates are down - go figure. Just being in a demonstrably violent gang should make it illegal to own a gun. When you are a member of a gang you are forswearing your primary secular allegiance to the U.S.

  • cephalopodan||

    I don't know how this isn't more of an issue in this most recent gun banning episode, but Americans CAN actually go buy grenades and fully automatic machine guns from their local class III weapons dealer. With enough money for the ATF stamps you can own a surprising array of weapons. It seems even many pro gun folks are misinformed about this.

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