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Record U.S. Partisan Divide on Views of the NRA

Record U.S. Partisan Divide on Views of the NRA
by RJ Reinhart

Story Highlights

  • 88% of Republicans have very or mostly favorable views of the NRA
  • 24% of Democrats hold similar opinions
  • 53% of all Americans view the NRA favorably, 42% unfavorably

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Republicans and Democrats are more divided in their views of the National Rifle Association than at any other time in Gallup's 29-year trend. Eighty-eight percent of self-identified Republicans say they have very or mostly favorable views of the NRA, compared with 24% of Democrats, a 64-percentage-point gap in positive opinions of the organization.

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These results are from a Gallup poll conducted June 1-13. In January, Gallup also found a large partisan gap in satisfaction with the country's current gun laws. Sixty-nine percent of Republicans said they are satisfied with the country's gun laws, while 79% of Democrats said they are dissatisfied. This partisan gap in satisfaction is reflected, to an extent, in Americans' views of the NRA, the high-profile U.S. organization opposed to more stringent gun regulations.

Republicans consistently have had more favorable views of the NRA than Democrats have since Gallup first asked Americans this question in 1989, but the size of the party gap has more than quadrupled in the past three decades. In 1989, 64% of Republicans and 49% of Democrats had favorable views of the NRA, a 15-point difference. By April 2000, this party divide had more than doubled. The gap widened to 33 points as fewer Democrats, 34%, expressed favorable views of the NRA. Since 2000, Republicans generally have become more positive toward the NRA, while Democrats' favorable views have fluctuated between 32% and 41% -- until the most recent survey.

The percentage of Democrats viewing the NRA favorably dropped 11 points in the most recent survey, to a new low of 24%, from 35% in 2015. This may reflect a variety of factors, including substantial support among Democratic leaders for tougher gun control legislation after a series of high-profile mass shootings in the past few years. In particular, efforts by survivors of the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, to put pressure on Congress to pass new gun control laws may be affecting U.S. Democrats' opinions of the NRA.

The 88% of Republicans with favorable views of the NRA is a record high for that group. The Republican Party traditionally has had a close relationship with the NRA, which intensified after the 1994 federal assault weapons ban and became even stronger during Barack Obama's presidency. The current high level of favorability among GOP supporters may reflect the NRA's continued opposition to stronger gun control legislation.

The 64-point divide in views of the NRA by party is now substantially wider than even that by gun ownership. Seventy-five percent of gun owners and 39% of non-gun owners have favorable views of the NRA, a gap of 36 points.

Gun owners within both parties have more favorable views of the NRA than do each party's rank-and-file partisans. Ninety-four percent of Republican gun owners view the NRA favorably, modestly higher than the 88% among all Republicans. The difference in favorable attitudes toward the NRA among gun-owning Democrats and the party's rank-and-file is more dramatic (43% vs. 24%, respectively).

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More Americans Overall Have Negative Opinions of NRA

Among all Americans, sentiments toward the NRA have become increasingly negative, with 53% now expressing favorable opinions of the organization, down from 58% in 2015. Forty-two percent have unfavorable views, up from 35% in the prior survey.

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A majority of Americans have viewed the NRA favorably in nine of the 10 readings that Gallup has taken on the group. The sole exception was in June 1995, when a slight majority of Americans (51%) expressed unfavorable views of the NRA. This was Gallup's first reading on the NRA after the May 1994 passage of the assault weapons ban. The organization, which had strongly opposed the ban, then worked to make guns a top issue for the 1996 election -- potentially affecting public opinion on the matter. Americans' favorable views of the NRA climbed from 42% in 1995 to 51% in 1999.

Bottom Line

Americans are becoming increasingly partisan on many issues, including guns and gun control. This growing divide between Republicans and Democrats is seen in attitudes toward the NRA. The large partisan gap may be turning support for the NRA -- and by extension, gun control legislation -- into a litmus test for candidates from the two parties. Given the high percentage of Republicans who view the NRA favorably, it may be extremely difficult for a GOP candidate who opposes the group to win a primary election. Likewise, a pro-NRA Democrat may have trouble emerging from a primary to run in a general election.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 1-13, 2018, with a random sample of 1,520 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 ±3 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 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

Gallup


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