And in my final look at a Gallup poll, it is the issue of guns. They tested the nine proposals put forward by Obama and found each one had majority support – in some cases overwhelming. In order they are:
- Require criminal background checks for all gun sales 91%
- More spending on youth mental health 82%
- Increase training for Police etc on responding to armed attacks 79%
- Increase penalties for buying a gun for someone not authorised to own one 75%
- $4 billion on 15,000 more police officers 70%
- $30 million to help schools develop response plans 69%
- Ban armour-piercing bullets except for military and police 67%
- Reinstate and strengthen assault weapon ban 60%
- Limit sale of ammo mags to 10 rounds or less 54%
Only the first one and the last three are really about gun controls or restrictions. The background checks has huge support. The last three majority support but some significant opposition – 30% or more.
So does this indicate Obama will get it through Congress? Not a lot. Why? Because they do not ask how strongly people feel on an issue. Let’s say 60% are in favour and 30% against. But what will impact politicians is will those 60% in favour change their vote based on how they vote on this issue and will the 30% against change their vote?
And the reality is that those pro gun control feel pretty strongly on it, but are unlikely to vote for a Representative or Senator just because they voted for gun control. However those anti gun control regard it as a deeply personal issue where it is their rights being taken away. They will never vote for you if you vote against them on it.
The same logic applied in NZ on nuclear ships visit. It was possible to get a 50/50 split on the desirability of allowing nuclear powered (not not armed) US ships to visit. However repealing the ban would not gain you a single extra vote while for 5% to 7% of the population (mainly women) it would shift their vote. So a passionate minority can trump a majority.
Also of interest is the partisan split, on the nine issues. The per cent agreement from Democrats and Republicans on each is:
- Require criminal background checks for all gun sales 97% and 92%
- More spending on youth mental health 93% and 67%
- Increase training for Police etc on responding to armed attacks 87% and 71%
- Increase penalties for buying a gun for someone not authorised to own one 81% and 75%
- $4 billion on 15,000 more police officers 81% and 63%
- $30 million to help schools develop response plans 81% and 61%
- Ban armour-piercing bullets except for military and police 80% and 49%
- Reinstate and strengthen assault weapon ban 80% and 56%
- Limit sale of ammo mags to 10 rounds or less 74% and 39%
So of the nine issues, Republicans only really oppose the last one around size of mags.
Also of interest is given a choice of priorities, 65% of Americans said the focus should be on school security and mental health system and 30% on gun laws. So they support the measures but don’t think gun law reform is the priority.