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Americans' Views of NRA Become Less Positive

Americans' Views of NRA Become Less Positive

Story Highlights

  • 48% have a favorable opinion, 49% an unfavorable opinion of NRA
  • Opinions had been more positive than negative since 1999
  • Low point in NRA favorability was in 1995

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' image of the National Rifle Association, or NRA, has grown more negative in the past year with the percentage viewing it favorably dropping below 50% for only the second time in 30 years. Roughly equal percentages of U.S. adults now say they have an unfavorable (49%) opinion of the NRA as say they have a favorable one (48%). For most of Gallup's 1989-2019 trend, including in 2018, opinions of the NRA were more positive than negative.

Line chart. Americans’ opinions of the NRA are now divided, after being mostly positive since 1999.

The latest update is based on an August 15-30 Gallup poll, conducted after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio earlier the same month. In addition to the fallout from the mass shootings, the NRA has also been in the news for internal power struggles that led two top officials to resign as well as reports of financial trouble for the organization. Also, last week, the city of San Francisco passed a resolution naming the NRA a "domestic terrorist organization."

Only once in Gallup's trend have opinions of the NRA been worse than now. In 1995, 51% had a negative opinion and 42% had a positive opinion of the group.

The 1995 survey was conducted shortly after the organization sent out a widely criticized fundraising letter. The letter, citing the 1994 assault weapons ban, referred to federal agents as "jack-booted thugs" who were trying to take guns away from citizens. The reference prompted former President George H.W. Bush to discontinue his membership in the NRA in protest.

In Gallup's 11 readings on the NRA, an average of 53% have rated it favorably and 39% unfavorably.

Over the past year, the NRA's favorability has fallen among Democrats (from 24% to 15%) and independents (52% to 46%), but not among Republicans (88% to 87%).

The percentage of gun owners expressing positive opinions of the NRA declined slightly, from 75% to 68%, with little change among non-owners (39% to 37%).

Personal Protection Primary Reason for Owning Guns

One of the NRA's primary purposes is to promote the interests of gun owners. The survey finds 32% of Americans reporting they personally own a gun.

The survey asked gun owners to indicate why they owned a gun, updating a question last asked in 2013. The motivations today are similar to what they were then -- with the majority of gun owners, 61%, saying they own a firearm for protection. One third indicate they own a gun for hunting, while 12% use it for "recreation" or "sport."

Gun Owners Primarily Own Guns for Protection
There are many reasons why some people choose to own guns and others do not. What are some of the reasons why you own a gun? [OPEN-ENDED]
2013 2019
% %
Personal safety/Protection 60 61
Hunting 36 34
Recreation/Sport (non-specific) 13 12
Like guns/Wanted one/Enjoy using 5 6
Antique/Family heirloom/Passed down 5 6
Second Amendment right 5 5
Target shooting 8 5
Related to line of work -- police, military 3 5
Have always owned/Raised with guns/Family tradition 4 4
Collect guns/Hobby 1 3
Animal/Pest control/Euthanize sick animals, pets 1 1
Other 1 2
No reason in particular 3 1
No opinion <1 <1
Asked of gun owners; Responses total more than 100% due to multiple responses.

The NRA is known for its steadfast defense of the Second Amendment, which states that the government shall not infringe on citizens' right to bear arms. Five percent of gun owners cite exercising their Second Amendment rights as the reason they own a gun. That claim is made by 9% of Republican gun owners, but less than 1% of Democratic gun owners.


Every mass shooting in the U.S. brings renewed call for stronger gun control measures, and typically, resistance to such calls by the National Rifle Association. With Congress returning to session this week for the first time since the El Paso and Dayton shootings, gun control advocates are pushing for legislative action on the issue.

The House of Representatives earlier this year passed a universal background check bill and are considering additional measures. It is unclear what, if any, action the Republican-led Senate will take, but a bipartisan group of senators has been talking with President Donald Trump, who has stated he is interested in meaningful gun legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has deferred to President Trump on the issue, saying he will not bring up legislation unless the president supports it.

Though the NRA has typically been successful in scuttling gun control legislation, its attempts to do so at this time come when public support for the group is the lowest it has been in 20 years.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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