Orlando Shooting

Poll Shows the Partisan Gulf in Views of Orlando Attack's Causes

Yet all sides seem to support one really terrible solution.


A new Gallup poll verifies what your Twitter and Facebook feeds have likely already told you: The way Americans' view the Orlando gay bar attack varies very widely depending on their political affiliation.

When Gallup asked Americans whether they saw the attack in Orlando more as an incident of Islamic terrorism or as an incident of "domestic gun violence," the majority of Republicans said it was terrorism, while the majority of Democrats said it was domestic gun violence. The numbers weren't close either: 79 percent of Republicans said terrorism; 60 percent of Democrats said that it was primarily domestic gun violence. Independents were split nearly evenly between the two. No wonder we're seeing the two sides seemingly arguing past each other.

Shooting cause poll

The two explanations are not exclusive to each other: Both could be true. In fact it seems very much likely to be the case. From what new information we are learning about Omar Mateen, Islamic ideology increasingly became his outlet to justify violent inclinations and tendencies. Yet only six percent considered the possibility that the two could equally be true. Though to be fair, the poll question didn't present both as an option. Six percent volunteered that the explanations were equal.

Sometimes having such a huge divide isn't a bad thing. Having Democrats and Republicans in such profound disagreement helps serve as a bulwark against the passage of bad laws or the implementation of bad policies. But further polling leads to a strange place. The disagreement here is somehow leading people to believe that the best solution to prevent future attacks is exactly the proposal that violates Americans' rights to due process in addition to their right to bear arms: Allowing the federal government to deny gun purchases on the basis of simply being suspected of ties to terrorism, regardless of whether people are ever charged with any crimes.

A full 80 percent of those who were polled by Gallup said they think banning gun sales to people on the federal no-fly terrorism watch list would be very or somewhat effective in preventing future mass shootings in America. There is very little difference in poll numbers based on partisanship in support of such a measure: 75 percent of Republicans think it would be effective, along with 84 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of independents.

Solutions poll

Looking at those poll numbers it's very easy to see why Democrats are pushing this type of legislation, even though there are even those on the left who know full well there are some very, very bad consequences to tying the right to express one's civil liberties to whether or not they are viewed by the government as potentially dangerous. Activists from disparate groups as Black Lives Matter to citizen militia organizations have been viewed as potential domestic terror threats.

My guess, though, is that the average American doesn't see any likelihood that such a rule would personally, individually affect them or the people they care about. It's akin to the idea that Americans are increasingly aware of the likelihood that innocent people have been executed as a result of having a death penalty, yet many people support it anyway. If a number of people don't believe it's likely they or people they care about are ever going to face this type of injustice, they may care less about the unintended consequences in the name of preserving public safety.

Thus, despite the massive dichotomy between what Democrats and Republicans believe is the reason behind Mateen's attack, many people on both sides believe that those who end up on the no-fly list have a reason to be there. And if they're not supposed to be there, obviously a number of Americans are fine with the unintended consequences, probably because they don't think they'll be the ones punished.

Read more of Gallup's poll results here.