President Barack Obama after gun control push failed in April 2013
When President Barack Obama made a push for stricter gun control laws the first major policy push of his second term, he repeatedly cited polling showing wide support for expanded background checks for gun purchases.
But despite the December 2012 massacre at Newtown, Conn., there was never a true national outcry for new federal gun restrictions, just like little was accomplished after previous mass shootings that briefly drew national outrage.
That is encapsulated in a new poll out Thursday by the centrist think tank Third Way, which over-surveyed self-described moderates in an attempt to gauge what centrist voters think.
The vast majority of all Americans – 93% of liberals, 84% of moderates and 72% of conservatives — favor expanding background checks, which now are required for guns purchased from licensed dealers but not in private sales or at most gun shows. But 58%of self-described moderates still say existing gun laws are sufficient to keep their community safe.
And when asked if there should be more government regulation of gun purchases, just 53% of moderates agree. For liberals, the figure is 78%.
A couple of caveats: The poll of moderates is inherently skewed toward Democrats. Only 26% of Republicans consider themselves moderate – just ask former Sen. Richard Lugar (R., Ind.) – while 37% of Democrats use the label.
And it’s worth pointing out that Third Way was among the groups pushing the Senate last year during the failed effort to expand background checks.
Like the Congress, moderates are averse to making tough choices. Third Way’s report delicately puts it this way: “We found moderates weighing competing values and considering both positive and negative consequences for policies they generally support. This tension sometimes translates into support for policies that may seem at odds with each other to those in the more ideological camps.”
On federal spending: 76% of moderates say “it is immoral” for the country to carry a $17 trillion debt, but 72% say the country should boost spending on infrastructure and education “rather than worrying about long-term debt.”
On energy: 76% of moderates believe the United States needs to expand domestic oil, coal and natural gas production, but 89% say the country should “invest more” in developing renewable energy sources.
On government surveillance: 72%of moderates worry the federal government goes too far in collecting data from private phone and Internet communications, but 45% still worry that the U.S. isn’t doing enough to stop domestic terror attacks.
The survey polled 1,500 registered voters and was conducted April 14–18. The margin of error for the overall sample is +/- 2.53 percentage points.
More: Poll Shows Why Gun Control Looks Impossible - Washington Wire - WSJ