Category Archives: Gun Control

Some new Gun Control Results

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.



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.


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A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff … New Jerseyans and Gun Control

New Jerseyans’ Attitudes on Gun Control and Gun Violence

By Gabriela Perez and Jingying Zeng

Gabriela Perez, a senior at Rutgers University, and Jingying Zeng, a junior at Rutgers University, are data visualization interns at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.

These data come from a three-state study by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll that was in the field from February 22-27, 2014 done in conjunction with two other statewide academic polling centers – Siena Research Institute in New York and Roanoke’s Institute for Policy and Opinion Research in Virginia. We fielded a large set of the same questions to respondents in our respective states and have previously released the state-by-state results. This blog post takes a closer look at the New Jersey-specific data and the differences that emerge within New Jersey itself for some of the questions we asked in this study.


After a second tragic shooting at Fort Hood last week, the issue of gun violence has undoubtedly been back in the spotlight. Back at the end of February, the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll once again asked New Jerseyans about gun control and causes of mass shootings. While these numbers were asked a few weeks prior to this most recent tragedy, they are still extremely relevant now and show both where New Jerseyans agree and differ regarding gun control and what is most responsible for mass shootings.

Three-quarters of New Jerseyans say they are in favor of establishing a national gun registry – no surprise given the attitudes of residents in recent years has been overwhelmingly in favor of increased gun control. Two-thirds of those who possess guns in their household support the national gun registry, compared to three-quarters of those in non gun-owning households. Interestingly, there is not as much partisan division on this question in New Jersey as we might expect; a majority of partisans of all stripes support the measure: 78 percent of Democrats favor the registry, as do 71 percent of Independents and 67 percent of Republicans.

The perceived benefits of stricter gun laws are a different story, however. Among New Jerseyans overall, residents are split as to whether stricter laws make people more safe or whether they make no difference at all: 44 percent say the former, while 41 percent say the latter, and just 14 percent say stricter laws make them less safe. Perceptions on this have not changed a great deal despite numerous shootings throughout the past year: a February 2013 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll similarly showed that 47 percent of residents claimed they believe that stricter gun laws would reduce violence.

These opinions furthermore vary greatly by partisanship. Just over half of Democrats feel that stricter gun laws would make them “more safe,” and 41 percent say no difference. Just 27 percent of Republicans say such laws would make them safer, on the other hand; they are instead more likely than other partisans to say that stricter gun laws would make them less safe (at 23 percent) and most likely to say the laws would make no difference. Independents are closer to Democrats in their belief about greater safety: 45 percent say stricter laws would make them “more safe.”

Attitudes on safety also vary by gun ownership. Almost half of those in households with a gun say stricter laws would make no difference, while the rest are split between whether such laws would make things more or less safe. Those in households that do not own a gun are instead much more likely to say these laws would make them feel more safe (at 48 percent); another four in ten of these respondents say no difference, and just 9 percent say less safe.

When asked to choose what factor has been most responsible for mass shootings, New Jerseyans are mostly in agreement. Overall, residents are most likely to say that poor policies dealing with mental illness takes the top spot. Over a third mention this as most responsible for mass shootings, while another one in five more grimly believe the fact that we simply cannot stop those who want to kill others is most responsible. Another 16 percent blame weak gun laws, while about one in ten blame violent media (such as movies and video games) and the poor enforcement of gun laws. While all partisans are most likely to mention dealing with mental illness, Democrats are next most likely to mention weak gun laws, while both Independents and Republicans are next most likely to say our inability to stop those who want to kill is most responsible.

All in all, it seems opinions on gun control in New Jersey continue to reflect a desire for more protective gun measures like the national gun registry – despite New Jersey already having some of the toughest gun laws in the nation – yet residents are split as to whether or not such stringency actually works. New Jerseyans moreover mostly attribute the violence itself not wholly to weak gun laws but rather more so to poor handling of mental illness. This focus on mental illness coalesces with Gov. Christie’s stance on the topic, who has pushed for mental health reform as a primary way to combat gun violence. It also parallels current conversation around this new Fort Hood shooting, which has concentrated on the shooter’s mental health issues. As more unfolds about this latest tragedy, mental illness policies and reform may now play a bigger role than ever before in the fight against gun violence.

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Results of a Joint Poll with Siena and Roanoke Released Today

Over the last week we carried out our latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll of New Jersey with an interesting twist. In conjunction with two other statewide academic polling centers we fielded a large set of the same questions to respondents in our respective states. Today we release the results in a lengthy report that summarizes the interesting differences and similarities between the three states of New York (Siena Research Institute), Virginia (Roanoke Institute for Policy and Opinion Research) and Rutgers-Eagleton. The report speaks pretty much for itself, but if you want to see the full set of questions and crosstabs for all three institutions, you can find them here.

For a PDF of this release with the New Jersey tables and crosstabs, click here.

Full text of the release follows.

Roanoke/Rutgers-Eagleton/Siena College Study:  Simultaneous Polls – Virginia, New Jersey, New York
Majority in 3 States Favorable on Hillary Clinton; Give Former Sec of State 2016 Lead over Christie, Paul & Ryan

Voters in NJ, NY & Virginia in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage, National Gun Registry, Keystone Pipeline, Minimum Wage Hike, Med Marijuana; States Mixed on Obamacare, Unemployment Extension

Cuomo Stronger in NY than Christie in Jersey or McAuliffe in Virginia

NY & NJ Voters see Global Climate Change; Virginians Mixed

Loudonville, NY; New Brunswick, NJ; Roanoke, VA. – A majority of voters in New York (64 percent), New Jersey (59 percent) and Virginia (56 percent) have a favorable view of Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and name her most often in each state as the one eligible person that they would most like to see as the next President according to simultaneous identical polls conducted by Roanoke College in Virginia, Rutgers-Eagleton in New Jersey and Siena College in New York.  In early 2016 Presidential horseraces in each state, Clinton tops New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Paul Ryan by over 35 points in New York, 8 (Christie) to 14 (Paul) points in Virginia and even leads Christie by 10 in New Jersey while up there by 25 to 29 over Ryan and Paul.

“It’s early, very early, but in these three states worth 56 of 270 electoral votes needed to win, Hillary Clinton is well-liked, the top choice by margins of 4 or 5 to one in New York and Virginia and named more than twice as often in Governor Christie’s home state.  Head to head, she is untouchable in New York, has majorities in New Jersey and a lead in the potential battleground state of Virginia over not only two lesser known Republican hopefuls, Paul and Ryan, but over Christie who can no longer muster 50 percent favorable in any of the three states,” according to Don Levy, Director of the Siena College Research Institute.

Asked to vote in favor of or opposed to 12 national initiatives, a majority of voters in all three states support seven and oppose one.  Overwhelming majorities are in favor of raising the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour; legalizing the use of marijuana in all 50 states for medical purposes; approving a path to citizenship for people who are in the U.S. illegally, but are working, have no criminal record and pay taxes; approving the Keystone Pipeline to bring oil from Canada to the U.S.; using federal funds to make free Pre-Kindergarten education available to all children; and establishing a national gun registry.

Legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states is strongly supported in New Jersey and New York while Virginians are in favor by 53 to 40 percent.  Large majorities, greatest in Virginia, oppose allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to tap domestic phone lines in the interest of national security.


“We tend to spend more time focusing on how voters differ across states, but here we find that despite differences in geography, racial and religious makeup, and partisanship, there is more agreement than not in these three states on seven current issues. Apparently voters share more opinions than the media leads us to believe with their focus on a hyper partisan world,” according to David Redlawsk, Director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

“Given a huge disparity in gun ownership rates – half in Virginia compared to one in seven in the two northern states – the much smaller differences on support for a national gun registry are surprising.  Virginians are less supportive of stricter gun laws, but those differences are relatively small. New York and New Jersey have much tougher restrictions on guns and gun owners; perhaps those differences are a factor in shaping opinion,” according to Harry Wilson, Director of Roanoke’s Institute for Policy and Opinion Research.

On four current issues – the Affordable Care Act, abortion, standardized testing and an extension for unemployment benefits – the voters of New Jersey, New York and Virginia do not speak with the same decisiveness nor the same mind.  Given the opportunity to vote in these polls on repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, a majority of Virginians are in favor, a small majority of New Jerseyans agree, but a similarly small majority of New Yorkers oppose repeal.  On two other current hot button issues, both New York and New Jersey support both reinstituting unemployment benefits beyond the initial 26 weeks of coverage and to a lesser degree, using nationally standardized tests to assess the quality of public schools, while in Virginia, both issues find voters split.

The one issue on which voters of each state are closely divided is making abortion illegal 20 weeks after conception, a proposal currently being advanced by some in Congress.  Voters in all three states lean towards opposing this measure, but only in Virginia does opposition reach beyond the margin of error and in no instant does opposition reach 50 percent.

“While voters in these three states agree on and endorse initiatives covering a wide range of issues – same-sex marriage, medical marijuana, the Keystone Pipeline and the minimum wage – voters both within these three states and across borders cannot come to any consensus on some of the key issues that are drawing the political battle lines today including abortion, Obamacare and unemployment benefits.  In fact, asked whether the greatest problem we face today is too much government or income inequality, New Yorkers say ‘it’s inequality,’ Virginians say ‘too much government’ and New Jersey is split,” Levy notes.

“Another line in the sand is climate change.  New Jersey and New York emphatically say that they think that the major storms that have hit the East Coast over the last two years are the result of global climate change while Virginians are not convinced,” Wilson adds.

Rating the Governors, States and Country

Of the three Governors, Andrew Cuomo in New York, Chris Christie in New Jersey and Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, Cuomo has the strongest favorability ranking in his own state at 59 to 34 percent followed by McAuliffe’s 47 to 33 percent and Christie’s 48 to 40 percent.  Away from their home state, Christie is best known but gets breakeven favorable/unfavorable scores in both New York and Virginia.  McAuliffe, the Governor with the shortest tenure, is little known outside of Virginia while Cuomo is seen favorably in New Jersey, 47 to 19 percent but is neither well known nor popular in Virginia at 27 to 33 percent.

Another point of agreement across these three states is that voters say that the country is headed in the wrong direction rather than being on the right track by nearly identical scores – NJ 56/32, NY 54/36, Virginia 59/32.  And when asked to assess the direction of their own state, voters are more positive about their home than the nation but no state makes it to 50 percent saying ‘right track.’  While Virginians are guardedly optimistic at 47 percent right track to 40 percent wrong direction, New Yorkers and New Jerseyans lean negatively.


“Still, given a chance to vote with their feet when asked across all three states to choose where they would most like to live, a large majority – ninety percent in Virginia, two-thirds in New York and almost six in ten in New Jersey, say, despite any warts, home is sweet home.  Among those with a wandering eye, Virginia calls most loudly as a quarter of both New Yorkers and New Jerseyans are ready to head south,” Redlawsk added.

“Whether we describe our politics as hyper-partisan, divided or gridlocked, this three-state study shows that large majorities of voters from New Jersey, New York and Virginia agree on many issues.  Still, given their sobering agreement on the country currently moving in the wrong direction, they appear more frustrated than optimistic.  At the same time, on some issues including Obamacare, the role of government and abortion, deep divides are evident.  The 2016 Presidential election is a political eternity away.  While some of the issues in this study may be decided by then, it is more likely that Hillary Clinton and the other candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, will need to address both the areas of agreement as well as those on which Americans disagree when the campaign heats up.”


Filed under Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, Education, Gay Marriage, Gun Control, Health Care, Hillary Clinton, Immigration, Obama NJ Rating, President Obama

Rutgers-Eagleton Poll’s 2013 Top 5 Countdown

by Rene Polanco III, Alexa Marzocca, and Ashley Koning

The holiday season at the end of the year is usually a time for cherished traditions, and to follow suit, we are continuing our tradition here at the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll by reflecting on our top results of the past twelve months. 2012 proved to be an exciting time for polling in New Jersey, but 2013 certainly did not disappoint – between two statewide elections, countless pieces of important legislation, a national government shutdown, rebuilding after Sandy, and a whole host of social issues that stood at the forefront of politics both state and nationwide. The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll explored several of these topics this past year, so as another year comes to a close and as we raise a toast to 2014, here is a look back at five of what we consider to be the top polling stories in New Jersey of 2013.

5.) Much like the rest of the nation, support for gun control in New Jersey declines post-Newtown.

In the week following the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT in December 2012, support for gun control reached an all-time high – 77 percent of Garden State residents were “very concerned” about gun violence in the country. But with the arrival of the new year, this spike in concern quickly dissipated, receding to pre-Newtown levels. In February 2013, the percentage of those very concerned dropped to 69 percent, and the same percentage said it is more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun owner rights – also a slight dip from the 72 percent who believed controlling gun ownership was more important in December. Just before another tragic and highly publicized shooting at the Washington Naval Yard this past September, 70 percent were very concerned about gun violence and 63 percent favored gun control over gun owners’ rights (a six point drop). Nonetheless, most New Jerseyans supported gun control legislation, particularly the three pieces Gov. Christie either conditionally or absolutely vetoed that same month. The governor subsequently signed one of these into law shortly thereafter – the reporting of lost, stolen, and discarded guns to federal databases – alongside 11 other bills he signed in the weeks prior.

gun control

Stay tuned; more to come …

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New Polling on Gun Control in NJ

We seem to have an uncanny knack at deciding to ask gun control issue questions on our polls just before incidents of mass violence.  In our most recent poll, which concluded a week before Monday’s shootings at the Washington Naval Yard, we had a series of questions about three gun control bills passed earlier this year by the NJ legislature, and vetoed (absolutely or conditionally) by Gov. Chris Christie. We were interested first, in whether the public supported the bills, and second, in whether knowing Christie vetoed them, Garden Staters would become less supportive of the measures.

So we asked the questions in an experiment where half of our respondents were told that Christie had vetoed the bills and half were only told the legislature passed them. The three bills would have 1) required reporting lost, stolen, and discarded guns to federal databases, 2) record gun permits on driver’s licenses, require gun safety training, and create instant background checks, and 3) ban .50-caliber rifles. Interesting, the last of these was advocated for by Christie, but in the end he vetoed the bill.

Below we report the total across both versions of the questions, finding that New Jerseyans overwhelmingly support the first two bills, and also support the proposed and, but not quite as strongly. In the experiment, we find that learning Christie vetoed the bills has NO effect on support for the .50-caliber ban, but REDUCES support for the other two bills he returned to the legislature. In other words, Christie’s opinion sways public opinion on the two more complex bills, but has no effect on the straightforward ban.

Text of the press release is below. Click here for a PDF with text, questions, and tables.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Large majorities of New Jerseyans support three pieces of gun control legislation Gov. Chris Christie either conditionally or absolutely vetoed recently, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll completed before Monday’s mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.

The most popular of the measures vetoed by the governor, to require state enforcement agencies to report information on lost, stolen and discarded guns to federal databases is strongly supported by 73 percent of state residents. A second measure, to require that firearms purchase permits be recorded on driver licenses, create instant background checks, and mandate gun safety training garners strong support from 70 percent.

A ban on the .50-caliber rifle, a measure for which Christie originally advocated but vetoed outright, has some support from 64 percent of respondents, including strong support from 54 percent.

Concern over gun violence remains steady since Rutgers-Eagleton last polled in February 2013, after President Obama announced multiple gun-related executive orders. Seven in 10 continue remain “very concerned” about the amount of gun violence in America, and another 22 percent say they are “somewhat concerned. Only 7 percent are not concerned at all.

But fewer Garden Staters now believe controlling gun ownership is more important than protecting the right to own guns: 63 percent now favor gun control over gun owners’ rights, down six points, while 31 percent side with gun owners. Much of the change is driven by those in households with guns who have become much more concerned about gun owner rights.

“After numerous very public shooting tragedies in recent years, it is clear New Jerseyans want more and stricter gun control measures adopted,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “This is true even though New Jersey already has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation.”

Results are from a poll of 925 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Sept 3-9. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.

Widespread concern persists, but more division on gun rights

While steady since February, the number of respondents “very concerned” about gun violence is down seven points from its all-time high of 77 percent recorded immediately after the December 2012 Newtown, Conn., school shooting. Concern among Democrats has dropped 8 points since December, while Republican levels of concern have actually increased by 10 points. Concern among independents has dipped 11 points since December, to 62 percent.

“The odd finding that Republicans became more concerned may be due to the emphasis Gov. Christie gave the issue earlier this year, when he advocated for several gun control laws, including banning the .50 caliber rifle,” said Redlawsk. “Given Republican’s strong support of the governor, his emphasis on the issue may have helped drive their concern up.”

More than 60 percent of Christie supporters are very concerned about gun violence. Eighty-one percent of Buono supporters and 76 percent of Christie detractors feel the same. A substantial gender gap persists. Women are 22 points more likely than men to be very concerned (81 percent to 59 percent). Even nearly 60 percent of gun owners are very concerned about gun violence, with another 25 percent saying they are somewhat concerned. Concern also increases with age.

Greater division exists, however, on the question of gun control versus gun owners’ rights.  Majorities of Democrats and Republicans are at opposite ends of the spectrum: 75 percent of Democrats say gun control is more important, but 54 percent of Republicans side with owners’ rights. While Republicans have not changed their opinions since February, Democrats’ support of gun control has dropped nine points, though most still support it. Independents’ support of gun control has declined six points since February, but 60 percent still say it is more important than owners’ rights.

Christie supporters and those who plan to vote for him in November are less likely to say gun control is more important than gun rights. Fifty-eight percent of those with a favorable impression of the governor prefer gun control, compared to 75 percent of his detractors. Similarly, 82 percent of Democratic challenger Barbara Buono’s supporters favor gun control, compared to just over half of the incumbent’s supporters.

Gun-owning households and those without also take opposing sides: 64 percent of gun owners believe protecting owners’ rights is more important, compared to 69 percent of households without guns, who disagree.  Gun owners’ beliefs in their rights have increased by 13 points since February, while non-gun owners’ preference for gun control has dropped by eight points.

Christie vetoes sway some residents

While large majorities support the three bills Christie at least conditionally turned aside, his decisions do sway some voters to his side. As an experiment, half the respondents were informed of the vetoes. The other was only told the bills had been passed by the Legislature. Support for two bills – the federal reporting requirement for lost guns, and the mandate for driver’s license notations, background checks, and training – drops significantly when people learn Christie vetoed them. Support for banning .50-caliber guns remains unchanged, however.

When information about the governor’s veto was omitted, 73 percent of New Jerseyans want to see background checks and training. But Christie’s actions influence some: 67 percent offer strong support when they know about the veto. Women are not affected by knowledge of the veto, but strong support by men drops 13 points when told Christie refused to sign the bill. Among Republicans, support for the bill drops seven points to 57 percent when Christie’s veto is mentioned. Democrats show a larger decline: 80 percent strongly support the bill when they don’t know about the veto. Seventy-one percent offer strong support when they know the governor vetoed the bill.

Similar patterns occur when respondents are told about Christie’s veto of the federal database bill. Seventy-seven percent of those who don’t know about the veto strongly support the bill, but the number drops to 69 percent when told Christie opposed it. Democrats are eight points less likely, and Republicans 12 points less likely to offer strong support for this law when they learn of Christie’s vetoes.  Support among men and women drops when they are told of the governor’s veto.

Attitudes are much more stable in respect to the proposed .50-caliber rifle ban. Just over half of respondents in both versions of the question strongly support the ban, whether or not they are told about the veto.

These results suggest two things, according to Redlawsk. “First, people are more certain of their position on banning the .50-caliber gun, so their opinion does not change whether they know Christie opposes it,” he said. “But for the other, more complicated measures, support is not as crystallized. As a result, the governor’s decision directly influences opinion, moving some people more in his direction. Still, most New Jerseyans want to see all three bills become law.”


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New Jerseyans Support Gun Control; Concern over Gun Violence has Declined a bit since December

Today we repeat many of our questions on gun violence and gun control from our December 2012 poll, taken right after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, support for gun control was very high, and even households with gun owners reported support for gun control. But in the ensuing two months the concern appears to have eased somewhat, as gun control support has dropped back to the levels we found in August 2012. However, New Jerseyans are still very much concerned about gun violence and strongly in support of gun control measures, including President Obama’s recent proposals. But we are seeing the traditional partisan differences reopening on this issue.

Following is the full text of the press release. For a PDF of the release plus tables and questions, click here.



NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – New Jerseyans’ concern about gun violence in America has eased somewhat since the Sandy Hook shootings in December, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.  In the week following the school shooting in Connecticut, 77 percent of Garden State residents were “very concerned.” That number has dropped to 69 percent. The same percentage believes it is more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun owner rights, a slight dip from 72 percent in December.

“The immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook saw a clear increase in concern about guns in New Jersey,” noted David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “As that particular shooting fades in the public eye, concern has also dropped, though it remains slightly above pre-Sandy Hook numbers.”

About a third of New Jerseyans (34 percent) believe easy availability is the primary cause of gun violence in America, with inadequate background checks (16 percent) and how parents raise their children (15 percent) as distant runners-up. Also, 48 percent have an unfavorable impression of the National Rifle Association, while 28 percent view the NRA favorably. New Jerseyans are split on whether stricter gun laws would actually reduce the amount of violence in the country.

Results are from a poll of 796 adult New Jerseyans conducted statewide among landline and cell phone households from Jan. 30 – Feb. 3 with a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Concern and support for gun control return to pre-Newtown levels

Two months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, the intensity of concern over gun violence has subsided, returning close to levels reported in an August 2012 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. In particular, concern has dropped most among groups that saw the largest increases in December. Sixty percent of men are now “very concerned,” down 11 points, while the number of very concerned women dropped only five points to 78 percent, leaving an 18-point gender gap.

Fifty-five percent of Republicans remain very concerned, a drop of four points. Among Democrats and independents, the decrease is greater: very concerned Democrats declined 10 percentage points to 78 percent. Independents declined nine points to 66 percent.

Concurrent with a decline in concern has been increased support for gun owner rights among some groups. While 69 percent of adults favor gun control over owners’ rights, there is a dramatic shift since December in the 20 percent of households with a gun owner. Immediately after Sandy Hook, 57 percent of residents in gun-owning households said gun control was more important than protecting gun rights. Now, this same group favors protecting their gun rights over gun controls, 51 percent to 42 percent.

Republicans also have shifted their views: 50 percent prefer protection of gun owner rights, up from 38 percent two months ago. Sixty-six percent of independents and 84 percent of Democrats, however, believe controlling gun ownership is more important. Among those who are unfavorable toward the NRA, 86 percent believe gun control to be more important; those with a favorable impression of the NRA take the opposite position, 60 percent to 38 percent.

The poll also finds the importance of gun control as an issue also has declined somewhat. In December, 26 percent saw it as the most important issue facing America. Today 18 percent feel the same way. Another 52 percent say it is one of a few very important issues, a drop of only 2 points.

“In the immediate shock of the Sandy Hook shootings, partisanship and self-interest gave way briefly to a common belief that gun violence had become a serious problem and gun control was necessary,” said Redlawsk. “But we are beginning to see the usual partisan differences again, with Republicans supporting gun owners, and owners reasserting their rights. At the same time, these positions are not shared by the majority of New Jerseyans.”

NRA favorability low in New Jersey

The NRA is not looked upon favorably by many New Jerseyans, with 28 percent holding a favorable impression compared to 48 percent who do not. This puts the NRA only slightly ahead of Garden Staters’ perceptions of Congress, which have been endemically low.

Fifty-five percent of Republicans favor the NRA, compared to 17 percent of Democrats and 25 percent of independents. Men favor the group by 33 percent to 23 percent, and respondents 65 and older are more favorable than those under 30, 32 percent to 20 percent. Regionally, the NRA’s strongest support comes from the Shore counties (32 percent) and the Philadelphia suburbs/south Jersey (31 percent). Twenty-four 24 percent of northeast urban New Jerseyans favor the NRA.

President Obama’s proposals

New Jerseyans strong support President Obama’s recently announced proposals and executive orders on guns: more than 90 percent favor improved mental health services, universal background checks and a tougher background check system. While support is lower, three-quarters are in favor of renewing the federal ban on military-style assault weapons, and limiting access to high-capacity ammunition magazines. There is slightly less support for providing incentives to hire school resource officers and counselors, although about seven in 10 support this specific proposal.

Gun-owning households are just as likely to support improved mental health services as those without, according to the poll. Democrats are stronger supporters than Republicans by 92 percent to 85 percent.  Perhaps surprisingly, given recent NRA rhetoric, a similar pattern exists for universal background checks, with 93 percent of New Jerseyans in favor, including more than nine in 10 gun-owning households, non-gun owners, and across all partisan affiliations.

The president’s proposal to institute a stronger background check system produces a slightly different picture: 83 percent of gun-owning households support it compared to 92 percent without.   Similarly, 81 percent of NRA backers support the measure versus 95 percent of opponents.  Republicans (at 85 percent) are also less likely to support it than Democrats (96 percent) and slightly less likely than independents (87 percent).

Three-quarters of New Jerseyans support the White House’s proposed renewal of the federal assault weapons, but those in households with guns are 17 points less likely than those without guns to support it (62 percent versus 79 percent). Likewise, NRA backers are much less supportive than detractors, 59 percent to 88 percent, and Democrats (83 percent) are stronger supporters than Republicans (70 percent) and independents (69 percent).  Similar divisions are seen with the proposal to limit access to high-capacity ammunition magazines: gun owners (64 percent), NRA proponents (55 percent), and Republicans (65 percent) are all less likely to support it.

As for providing incentives to schools to high resource officers and counselors, this proposal receives a large majority of but not universal support. Those in gun-owning households (58 percent), NRA backers (67 percent), independents (61 percent), Republicans (67 percent), whites (66 percent), and older respondents are all slightly less favorable of the particular initiative.

What causes gun violence and how effective are gun laws?

One third of New Jersey adults say the easy availability of guns is the cause of gun violence, followed by 16 percent who blame inadequate background checks, and 15 percent who place the blame on how parents raise their children. Another 13 percent blame inadequate treatment of the mentally ill while 8 percent think violent video games are to blame.

New Jerseyans are split on whether stricter gun laws would reduce violence with 47 percent agreeing and 47 percent disagreeing. But among gun-owning households, 69 percent say stricter gun laws would not reduce violence compared to 53 who feel differently. Similarly, 74 percent of NRA supporters believe violence would not be reduced, compared to only 28 percent of opponents. A solid majority of Democrats (61 percent) say stricter laws would reduce violence, but only 39 percent of independents and 35 percent of Republicans agree.

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Support for Gun Control Up in NJ, even among Gun Owners

We had an opportunity to do a quick poll on gun control this week.  It is of course not surprising to see an increased level of concern and willingness to support gun control over gun owner rights, compared to our August 2012 poll on this issue in the wake of the tragic shooting in Newtown, CT. New Jerseyans are much more willing than the nation as a whole to prefer controlling guns over gun owner rights. They are also very willing to consider a range of responses, including longer waiting periods on buying guns, more extensive background checks, and renewing the federal assault weapons ban. And nearly a third give at least some support to a constitutional amendment to ban private gun ownership all together.

Test of the release is below. Click here for a PDF with the text, tables and questions.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Following the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, 77 percent of New Jersey adults are “very concerned” about gun violence in America, a significant increase from the 66 percent who were very concerned in a late August Rutgers-Eagleton poll of registered voters. Seventy-two percent of Garden Staters now think controlling gun ownership is more important than protecting gun owner rights, up from 65 percent in August.

More than a quarter of all New Jerseyans say gun control is the most important issue facing the country today, while another 50 percent say it is one of a few very important issues. Only 5 percent say it is unimportant.

Among the 20 percent with a gun owner in their household, six in ten are very concerned about gun violence, up from 43 percent from August; among non-gun-owning households, 82 percent are very concerned, up 12 points. And in another sharp increase following the latest shooting, 57 percent of those in gun-owning households now think controlling gun ownership is more important than protecting gun owner rights, up from 41 percent in August. More than 60 percent of those with gun owners in the household say gun control is a very important or the most important issue today, as do 81 percent of others.

“Prior to the latest shooting, gun control wasn’t even on the national agenda,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Now three-quarters of New Jerseyans consider it a very important issue. Concern has skyrocketed among non-gun owners, but has increased even more among those in gun-owning households. But it is worth noting that New Jersey is much more pro-gun control than the nation, where a recent Pew poll showed 49 percent favor controlling gun ownership while 42 percent prefer protecting gun owner rights.”

Results are from a poll of 663 adults conducted statewide among landline and cell phone households Dec. 19 and 20th with a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

Universal awareness of Sandy Hook shooting

Virtually all New Jerseyans (96 percent) say they have heard “a lot” about the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Only 4 percent say they have heard only a little, and fewer than 1 percent say they have heard nothing. Few events have such universal awareness, noted Redlawsk. “The extensive media coverage and intense social networking discussions have reached all New Jerseyans and have created an environment for the serious discussion of gun issues beyond any previous mass shooting.”

Most New Jerseyans also say the time immediately after a mass shooting is the right time to talk about gun control. Only 27 percent think it is the wrong time to have a national discussion on gun issues. Even a majority of gun owners agree that now is the right time for this discussion, while 42 percent say it is the wrong time.

Large majorities of Democrats (76 percent) and independents (70 percent) think it is time to have a national discussion about gun laws following the Newtown shooting. Even a majority of Republicans (53 percent) agrees. Women are more willing to discuss the issue now (72 percent) while 66 percent of men agree it is the right time. Senior citizens are the most willing to hold the discussion immediately following a mass shooting, at 80 percent, while 61 percent of those under 30 say it is the right time.

Concern has grown

The August Eagleton Poll took place just a few weeks after the Sikh Temple shooting in Oak Creek, WI on August 5, and during that poll there was a shooting at the Empire State Building in New York City. Even so, those results showed little change in attitudes about gun control from a previous New Jersey poll in 1999. This time is different, at least in the short run. Concern over guns has grown among virtually every demographic group. Nearly 71 percent of men are now very concerned, up 14 points from August, while 83 percent of women are very concerned, up from 73 percent.

Concern among Republicans is up by 4 points, with 59 percent very concerned, while 88 percent of Democrats are now very concerned, up 7 points. Concern among independents has jumped 16 points to 75 percent. “Where independents previously seemed closer to Republican in their concern about guns, there has been a seismic shift, so that they are now moving closer to Democrats,” Redlawsk noted.

The shooting in Newtown seems to have galvanized young people the most. In August, only 47 percent of voters under 30 were very concerned about guns. Today that has jumped to 68 percent of Garden Staters under 30.

“Guns have become a daily conversation in the week following the shooting,” said Redlawsk. “With concern this high, there is pressure on politicians to act. However, as this news fades and new issues come forward, that pressure may fade unless people remain as worried as they are now.”

Strong support for a range of policies

The poll asked Garden Staters about five potential policies relating to guns; four of the five received strong support, while the fifth, a constitutional amendment to overturn the Second Amendment, gets much less support, even in non-gun owning households.

Ninety-one percent of New Jerseyans support requiring more extensive background checks for gun buyers, with 84 percent strongly supporting these checks. Among households with gun owners, 72 percent strongly support increased background checks, as do 78 percent of Republicans and 93 percent of Democrats.

Nearly as many are in favor of reinstating the federal assault weapons ban; 76 percent strongly support it, and 8 percent support it somewhat. Those with gun owners in their households are not far behind, with 68 percent strongly supporting and 9 percent somewhat supporting a renewal of the ban. Even two-thirds of New Jersey Republicans back a renewed ban, along with 81 percent of Democrats.

Increased waiting periods before buying guns garner strong support from 72 percent, with 14 percent somewhat supportive. Gun-owning households are much less supportive of this proposal: only 58 percent strongly support it, while another 16 percent are somewhat supportive. Likewise, there is a 19 point gap between Republicans (62 percent strongly support) and Democrats (81 percent) on increasing waiting periods.

About 72 percent of all Garden Staters and 67 percent of gun-owning households want increased public health funding to reduce potential gun violence, but there is strong support for this proposal among only 46 percent of all adults, including 39 percent of households with guns. Only one-third of Republicans strongly support this proposal, compared to nearly twice as many Democrats.

“Given this realistic set of policy options, there is general agreement that things need to be done,” said Redlawsk. “While Republicans and households with gun owners are less supportive of all of these proposals, the ones directly about guns – banning assault weapons, extensive background checks, and increased waiting periods – get strong support across the board.”

When it comes to a constitutional amendment to ban private ownership of weapons, a policy no one is proposing, a surprising number of New Jerseyans are supportive, though not a majority. Among all adults, just under one-third supports a constitutional amendment to ban private gun ownership. A bare majority of liberals supports such a move, but across other demographic groups there is less support, with the exception of black New Jerseyans, 49 percent of whom are supportive. Forty-four percent of women support such an amendment, but only 31 percent of men agree. Among households without gun owners, 43 percent are at least somewhat supportive (30 percent of whom strongly support a ban), but that drops to 18 percent in households where someone owns a gun.

“It is close to certain there will never be such an amendment,” said Redlawsk. “But by asking this question we get a sense of how strongly many people oppose any private ownership of guns.”


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