Last month, NJ Gov, Chris Christie cast his latest gun legislation veto, when he refused to sign a bill that would have lowered the limit on bullets in a magazine from 15 to 10. The same day, he refused to meet with parents of Sandy Hook school shooting victims, arguing it would be hypocritical to do so since he’d already vetoed the bill. Today we report that a plurality of New Jerseyans agree with Christie, supporting his veto 49 percent to 42 percent. But at the same time, the vast majority say he should have met with the parents, even though he had vetoed the bill.
One difference between the questions on the magazine limit and on the meeting is that we gave respondents the basic arguments from each side. This is not something we regularly do on most issues. Last time we did gun control, for example, we simply described the three bills Christie vetoed that time and asked how much or little respondents supported each bill. For all three, the number who at least gave some support was between 65% and 84%. But today only 42% say they opposed Christie’s veto of stricter magazine limits. Does this mean support for gun control overall is waning? No, not really, given our other results on concern about violence and which is more important: gun control or gun owner rights? Instead we think two things could be going on. First, the magazine limit may have seemed like it didn’t do much, just lowering the number of bullets. It just doesn’t sound as strong as banning .50 caliber weapons, for example. Second, by giving arguments on both sides we allowed those who might have been unsure to have information they could balance in making their choice.
Full test of the release follows. Click here to get a PDF of the release with questions and tables and some nice graphs.
NEW JERSEYANS SUPPORT AMMUNITION MAGAZINE LIMIT VETO; BUT MAJORITY SAYS GOV. CHRISTIE SHOULD HAVE MET WITH SANDY HOOK PARENTS
Most New Jerseyans Remain Concerned about Gun Violence in General
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Following Gov. Chris Christie’s veto last month of legislation designed to reduce the legal size of firearm ammunition magazines from 15 to 10 bullets, a plurality of New Jerseyans agree with Christie’s decision, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Given arguments for and against the measure, 49 percent of Garden State residents support Christie’s latest gun-related veto, while 42 percent say he should have signed the bill, and 9 percent are unsure.
“Most gun control measures we have asked about in the past garner large majorities in support,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “This one is different, with residents slightly more in favor of the veto than opposed, perhaps because the change seems only incremental and did not strike gun opponents as significant.”
The same day he issued the veto, Christie refused to meet with parents of children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to talk about the bill, a decision New Jerseyans definitely oppose. Sixty-six percent of residents believe Christie should have met with the parents even though he had vetoed the bill earlier that day, while just 24 percent agree with Christie that the meeting would have been hypocritical.
“Agree or disagree with the actual veto, people believe the governor should have taken the time to listen,” noted Redlawsk.
Concern about guns remains quite high, with 68 percent of New Jerseyans saying they are “very concerned” about gun violence in general, although this is down 9 points from December 2012 immediately following the Sandy Hook tragedy; another 24 percent say they are “somewhat concerned.” Garden Staters continue to believe controlling gun ownership is more important than protecting the right to own guns – 64 percent to 31 percent – but this is also down from December 2012, when 72 percent thought control was more important that the right to own guns, and just 20 percent sided with gun rights.
Results are from a statewide poll of 871 New Jerseyans contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 28 to Aug. 5, 2014, with a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points. The poll was completed before the recent events in Ferguson, MO.
Views on ammunition veto much more split than other gun control measures
When asked about Christie’s ammunition bill veto, respondents were given arguments for and against it: smaller magazines may make shootings less deadly by requiring shooters to reload more often, but limiting magazines to 10 bullets may not reduce further instances of mass violence.
“After hearing both sides, residents are much more supportive of this veto than they were after Christie vetoed three other pieces of gun control legislation in August 2013,” said Redlawsk. “In September 2013, we found that 65 percent to 85 percent of Garden Staters supported those gun control efforts, despite the vetoes. But in the case of the magazine limit, even many who might have supported the other measures apparently agree with Christie’s veto.”
While partisan differences appear in support for the most recent veto, they are not as strong as is often the case. Six in 10 Democrats disagree with the governor’s action, but 30 percent actually agree with him. A majority of independents (55 percent) and most Republicans (71 percent) also side with Christie. Residents who consider gun rights more important than gun control are strongly supportive of the veto; 71 percent agree with Christie, as do 62 percent of those with guns in the home. But just over half of those generally preferring gun control oppose the veto, while 39 percent support the governor.
Perhaps surprisingly, while women are typically more likely than men to favor gun control, the difference on this veto is smaller than usual, with women actually supporting Christie by a 47 percent to 44 percent margin. Men are somewhat more supportive, with 53 percent agreeing with the veto and 40 percent opposing it.
Those who are most concerned about gun violence in America are also less negative about the veto than might be expected, with 42 percent agreeing with the governor and 49 percent opposing the veto. Unsurprisingly, about two-thirds of residents who are only somewhat or not at all concerned about gun violence side with Christie. Even residents with children in the household are split, slightly favoring Christie – 49 percent to 43 percent.
“Clearly, the argument by opponents that the reduction would make little difference carried some weight,” said Redlawsk. “Apparently, going from 15 to 10 bullets just didn’t seem all that different.”
Virtually all groups, even gun supporters, say Christie should have met with parents
To assess reactions to Christie’s refusal to meet with Sandy Hook residents, the poll again gave respondents both sides of the story – Christie’s defense that meeting the parents would be hypocritical given that he had already vetoed the bill, and the parents’ rebuttal that they wanted to meet with him anyway to understand his reasons.
Residents’ views on the non-meeting are not divided by the typical lines that usually accompany gun issues. While 77 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independents think Christie should have met with the parents, so do 52 percent of Republicans; just over a third of Republicans agree with the GOP governor that the meeting would have been hypocritical.
Christie’s decision against meeting is not even popular with those who support the actual veto; 59 percent of these residents think the Sandy Hook parents should have been heard by the governor. Majorities of other Christie-supporting groups also think he should have had the meeting: 57 percent of those with a favorable impression of the governor, 53 percent of those looking to protect gun owners’ rights, and 55 percent living in gun-owning households wanted Christie to meet with the parents.
Among those most likely to support gun control – including women, people very concerned about gun violence, those disagreeing with Christie’s veto, and residents with children in the household – about three-quarters say Christie should have met with the Sandy Hook parents.
Typical dividing lines persist on gun control and gun rights in general
While concern about gun violence and support for gun control is still high across most demographic groups, longstanding differences continue to exist. While partisans of all stripes are concerned about gun violence in America today, their concern varies in degree: 82 percent of Democrats are very concerned, versus 63 percent of independents and 55 percent of Republicans. High concern among Republicans has declined 10 points since September 2013. Women remain much more likely than men to say they are very concerned (76 percent versus 59 percent). Older residents are more likely to be very concerned than younger residents.
Eight in 10 residents who want to control gun ownership are very concerned about violence, but even 44 percent aiming to protect gun owner rights feel the same. Similarly, 72 percent of residents in non-gun owning households are very concerned, while 49 percent of those in gun-owning households express great concern as well.
When asked which is more important – gun rights or gun control – only Republicans at 56 percent, and those in gun-owning households at 59 percent prefer gun rights. Democrats (85 percent) and, to a lesser extent, independents (59 percent) think controlling gun ownership is more important than protecting rights.
Women are 20 points more likely than men to say gun control is more important than gun owner rights (74 percent to 54 percent). More than three-quarters of those who say they are very concerned about gun violence feel the same. Even those who agree with Christie’s veto are slightly more likely to say gun control is more important by a 50 percent to 46 percent margin. Seven in ten non-gun owning households believe gun control is more important than gun owner rights.