August PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey
Fifty-two percent of the public favor passing stricter gun control laws, while 44% are opposed. There are dramatic differences by religious and political affiliation, gender, race, and gun ownership.
- Six-in-ten Catholics and religiously unaffiliated Americans (62% and 60%) favor stricter gun control laws, compared to fewer than half of white evangelical Protestants (35%) and white mainline Protestants (42%).
- More than 7-in-10 (72%) Democrats favor passing stricter gun control laws, while nearly two-thirds of Republicans (65%) and nearly 8-in-10 (78%) Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement are opposed. Political Independents are nearly evenly divided, with 49% in favor of stricter gun laws and 47% opposed.
- Six-in-ten (60%) women also favor the passage of stricter gun control legislation, compared to 44% of men.
- White non-Hispanic Americans are much less supportive of gun control laws than non-white Americans (45% vs. 66%).
- More than two-thirds (68%) of Americans who do not have any guns in their household favor the passage of stricter gun control measures. By contrast, more than 7-in-10 (71%) gun owners oppose stricter gun control laws. Americans who have guns in their households but are not gun owners themselves are divided, with 47% in favor and 53% opposed.
There is broad public support for providing stricter enforcement of existing gun control laws. Few Americans support loosening current gun control laws.
- There is strong support for stricter enforcement of existing gun control laws, with two-thirds (67%) of Americans in favor and 31% opposed.
- Similarly, nearly 7-in-10 (69%) Americans oppose loosening current gun control laws, while 26% are in favor.
Americans overwhelmingly believe that the constitutional right to own and carry a gun is as important as other constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
More than two-thirds (68%) of Americans agree that the constitutional right to own and carry a gun is as important as other constitutional rights, while 3-in-10 (30%) disagree.
- However, there are substantial differences in intensity between gun owners and non-gun owners (89% vs. 55%).
- White Americans are significantly more likely than non-white Americans to agree that the constitutional right to own and carry a gun is as important as other rights (75% vs. 56%).
Most Americans oppose allowing people to carry concealed guns in a church or place of worship, in a government building, or on a college campus. However, there are some religious and political divides.
Roughly three-quarters of Americans say people should not be allowed to carry concealed guns in a church or place of worship (76%), in a government building (73%) or on a college campus (77%).
- Nearly one-third (32%) of white evangelical Protestants and 3-in-10 (27%) white mainline Protestants believe that people should be allowed to carry concealed guns in a church or place of worship. By contrast, fewer than 1-in-5 religiously unaffiliated Americans (18%) and Catholics (14%) say that people should be permitted to bring concealed guns to church.
- A majority (55%) of Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement support allowing people to bring concealed guns to church, compared to 38% of Republicans, 17% of Independents, and 9% of Democrats.
- Similar patterns of opinion exist in views about whether concealed guns should be allowed in government buildings or on college campuses.
Nearly 3-in-10 (27%) Americans say that stricter gun control is the most important thing that can be done to prevent mass shootings, while roughly 1-in-5 say that better mental health screening and support (22%) and placing more emphasis on God and morality (20%) are the most important preventive measures. Fourteen percent of Americans say that stricter security measures at public gatherings are most important for preventing mass shootings from occurring. Roughly 1-in-10 (11%) Americans say that allowing more private citizens to carry guns for protection is the most important thing that can be done to prevent mass shootings.
- Members of the Tea Party movement are three times more likely than Americans overall to say that allowing more private citizens to carry guns for protection is the most important thing that can be done to prevent shootings (35% vs. 11%).
- Democrats are roughly three times more likely than Republicans to say that stricter gun control laws and enforcement is the most important measure to prevent mass shootings (38% vs. 13%).
- Close to 4-in-10 (36%) white evangelicals say that placing more emphasis on God and morality in school and society is the most important thing that can be done to prevent mass shootings.
Americans are divided over whether gun control is an issue that should be decided at the national or the state level.
A slim majority (51%) of Americans say gun control should be left up to the states, while 46% say it should be handled at the national level.
- Nearly three-quarters (74%) of the Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement and 7-in-10 (70%) Republicans believe gun control should be left up to the states to decide. Roughly 6-in-10 (61%) Democrats say this is a federal issue. Independents are evenly divided, with 47% saying that gun control should be decided at the national level, and 50% saying that it should be decided at the state level.
Gun ownership in the U.S. varies dramatically by region, race, political affiliation, gender, and religious affiliation.
Americans who are most likely to own guns or share a household with a person who owns a gun include members of the Tea Party (63%), white evangelical Protestants (58%), and Republicans (60%). Americans who are least likely to own guns or share a household with a person who owns a gun include Democrats (34%), Catholics (32%), Northeasterners (27%), and non-white Americans (23%).
The survey was designed and conducted by Public Religion Research Institute. Results of the survey were based on bilingual (Spanish and English) RDD telephone interviews conducted between August 8, 2012 and August 12, 2012 by professional interviewers under the direction of Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS). Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 1,006 adults 18 years of age or older in the continental United States (304 respondents were interviewed on a cell phone). The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.5 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. In addition to sampling error, surveys may also be subject to error or bias due to question wording, context and order effects.