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Americans' Dissatisfaction With U.S. Gun Laws at New High

Americans' Dissatisfaction With U.S. Gun Laws at New High

by Art Swift
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 62% dissatisfied with policies on guns, up 11 points from 2015
  • Republicans least dissatisfied with gun laws
  • 57% dissatisfied with U.S. policies on crime

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sixty-two percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the nation's laws or policies on guns, the highest percentage dissatisfied since Gallup's first Mood of the Nation poll in 2001. Dissatisfaction jumped 11 percentage points in one year.

Americans' Satisfaction With the Nation's Laws or Policies on Guns

These results are from a Jan. 6-10 Gallup poll, conducted after a tumultuous year that included several high-profile shootings and President Barack Obama's recent executive actions on guns.

At the close of the Clinton administration, dissatisfaction with gun laws was also high, at 57%. It dipped into the 40s during the Bush presidency and the first term of Obama's presidency. After the Sandy Hook massacre in late 2012, a majority of Americans again became dissatisfied with gun policies, and that has remained the case in the years since.

Most Americans Dissatisfied With Gun Laws Want Them to Be Stricter

Based on answers to a follow-up question, those who are dissatisfied with gun laws are much more likely to say they want these laws to be stricter. Overall, 38% of Americans are dissatisfied with the nation's gun laws and want them made stricter, 15% are dissatisfied and want the laws made less strict, and 9% are dissatisfied but say laws should remain as they are.

Overall, more than twice as many Americans are dissatisfied with current guns laws because they want them stricter than are dissatisfied because they want those laws loosened, 38% vs. 15%, respectively. However, as a sign of increasing polarization on that issue, both of those figures are at or near their 16-year highs.

Americans' Views on Gun Laws

Across Party Groups, Republicans Least Dissatisfied With Gun Laws

Republicans are the least dissatisfied with gun laws across political party groups, with 54% saying they are not happy with the nation's gun laws. Independents' dissatisfaction is slightly higher, at 59%. Democrats are the most dissatisfied, at 75%.

Dissatisfaction With Gun Policy in the U.S., by Party ID

In the follow-up question exploring the source of dissatisfaction, 68% of Democrats are dissatisfied and want gun laws to be stricter, much higher than the 12% of Republicans who say the same. Twenty-four percent of Republicans are dissatisfied and say policies should be less strict, with 4% of Democrats saying the same.

Americans Also Highly Dissatisfied With Nation's Policies on Crime

Along with being dissatisfied with gun laws, 57% of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the nation's policies to reduce or control crime, also a new high in Gallup's trend. This number is up six points from last year and 15 points from two years ago.

Americans' Satisfaction With the Nation's Policies to Reduce or Control Crime

The current crime satisfaction numbers are a reversal from 11 years ago. In 2005, 57% of Americans said they were satisfied with crime policies, during a period of relative satisfaction with the government's handling of that matter.

Similar to views on gun policies, Americans across party and age groups are dissatisfied with crime laws. Republicans are most dissatisfied, along with millennials.

Satisfaction With Crime Policy in the U.S., by Party ID and Age

Bottom Line

Americans are dissatisfied with gun and crime policy in the U.S. After Sandy Hook, a violent crime involving firearms, the American public's opinion on both guns and crime flipped from majority satisfaction to majority dissatisfaction. Since then, the gun debate has become more contentious, as mass shootings appear to proliferate in American life.

To prevent these tragic events, Americans are divided on whether to impose stricter gun laws or to defend against shooters by making gun ownership more widespread. In recent weeks, President Obama has issued executive actions on guns, ranging from increased background checks to augmenting mental health treatment, steps most Americans endorse in theory. While a majority of Americans have called for stricter gun laws in past Gallup polls, it remains to be seen whether a change in gun policies will have a measurable effect on gun violence in 2016.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 6-10, 2016, with a random sample of 1,012 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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