CNN | By Jennifer Agiesta
The American public is broadly supportive of the executive actions issued by President Barack Obama this week aimed at increasing the reach of federal background checks for gun purchases and improving enforcement of existing laws.
However, less than half say that these changes will be effective at reducing gun-related deaths, and most say they oppose the way Obama made these changes.
A new CNN/ORC poll finds 67% say they favor the changes Obama announced, and 32% oppose them. Support for the executive actions, designed to expand background checks to cover more gun purchases made online or at gun shows and to make it easier for the FBI to complete background checks efficiently, comes across party lines, with majorities of Democrats (85%), independents (65%) and Republicans (51%) in favor of them. Majorities back the measures across most demographic groups, in fact, including 57% of gun owners and 56% of rural residents.
Those who strongly favor the changes outnumber those who are strongly opposed by about a 2-to-1 margin: 43% say they are strongly in favor, 21% strongly opposed.
Support for the measures lags a bit behind the level of support most polling finds for expanded background checks generally. A Quinnipiac University poll in December found that 89% of Americans favored “a law requiring background checks on people buying guns at gun shows or online.” The changes announced by the President do not go that far, however, narrowing what has been called “the gun-show loophole” without closing it entirely.
Skepticism about the effectiveness of the executive actions is widespread.
Almost 6 in 10 say these measures will not be effective in reducing the number of gun-related deaths in the United States. That sentiment is particularly strong among gun owners, 75% of whom say they doubt the changes will reduce gun deaths.
Democrats are most optimistic about the prospect that the changes will help, 67% say they will be effective, while Republicans are broadly skeptical, with 78% saying they will not work. Women, who are about half as likely as men to be gun owners, are about evenly split on the question (47% say they will be effective, 50% not), while men mostly say they won’t work (64% not effective vs. 34% who say they will be effective).
Among those who support the changes Obama made, 57% think they will effectively reduce the number of gun-related deaths in the U.S., while that drops to just 7% among those who are opposed to them.
The poll finds Obama’s approval rating for handling gun policy on the rise in the days following the announcement of the new rules Tuesday, though overall reviews of his handling of the issue continue to tilt negative. Fifty-three percent say they disapprove of Obama’s handling of gun policy in the new poll, while 43% approve.
Approval has climbed 8 points since a late-December CNN/ORC Poll, with increases coming primarily among Democrats (up 16 points from 56% in December to 72% now), but also among Republicans (up 11 points from 10% approval in December to 21% now).
Compared with December, more now say Obama has done the right amount to change the nation’s gun laws, 31% say so now, up 11 points from 20% in December.
But dissatisfaction with Obama’s handling of gun laws remains larger than satisfaction, 38% say the President has gone too far in changing the nation’s gun laws, and another 30% say he just hasn’t gone far enough.
Democrats are split between saying he’s done the right amount (43%) and hasn’t gone far enough (42%). Republicans are firmly in the “gone too far” camp, 57% feel that way vs. 23% who say Obama has not gone far enough.
Despite those shifts toward the positive in reviews of Obama’s handling of gun laws, most Americans say they oppose Obama’s use of executive actions to make these changes, 54% oppose it, while just 44% support that mode of action. Here, the partisan divide is wide: 78% of Democrats say they favor Obama’s use of executive actions, while 79% of Republicans oppose it. Independents generally oppose the move, 61% opposed to 37% in favor.
The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted January 5-6 among a random national sample of 1,027 adults. Results based on the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, the error margin is larger for subgroups.
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