December 17, 2012

I noted this morning that gun control may not hold the political peril for Democrats that it once did, mainly because of the Democratic Party’s waning reliance on culturally conservative white voters. Ron Brownstein did a deep dive into older polling data and moved the ball further, establishing that the groups Obama relied upon for reelection — the emerging coalition of the Democratic Party’s future — are all behind gun control.

Now we have a brand new Washington Post/ABC News poll that really drives this home. What’s really striking is that opposition to stricter gun control is largely driven by white men — blue collar white men in particular.

By contrast, college educated whites, white women, moderates, and minorities all show majority support for stricter gun laws. These are the emerging pillars of the Democratic coalition.

First, the toplines. The Post poll finds that Americans favor stricter gun laws by 54-43. The Post polling team tells me that whites oppose them by 48-50. But this is driven by opposition among white men (42-56) and non-college whites (44-53). By contrast, college educated whites favor stricter laws (54-43), as do white women (53-44).

The same pattern is evident on semi-automatic weapons. Overall, Americans favor a nationwide ban on them by 52-44. Whites narrowly oppose this (48-49), but here again this is driven by opposition among white men (40-58) and non-college whites (42-54). By contrast, white women favor a ban by 56-40 and college educated whites favor one by 58-40.

 Public support for a nationwide ban on high capacity magazines is even stronger among the constituencies making up the emerging Democratic coalition. Americans overall support one by 59-48, as do big majorities of college educated whites and white women. Indeed, this is a case where even groups Dems are losing support a ban — non-college whites back one by 52-45, and white men back one by 54-45 — further underscoring that Dems are probably on safe ground with this route. 

On all the above three questions, solid majorities of moderates support stricter laws, as do big majorities of non-whites. HuffPo reports that Senator Frank Lautenberg is set to introduce such a ban on high capacity magazines — which were used in recent mass shootings, including in Newtown — in the new Congress.

 “Gun control is now overwhelmingly unpopular among the portions of the white electorate Obama is least likely to win anyway — and maintains solid majority support among the Americans most likely to actually vote for him,” Brownstein writes. “Gun control, in fact, remains a majority position with the same groups generally most enthusiastic about Obama’s recent embrace of gay marriage, free access to contraception in health insurance, and an administration version of the Dream Act for young illegal immigrants.”

The demographic shifts that Obama and the Democratic Party appear to be profiting from may also mean Dems no longer need to tip-toe around the “God, guns, and gays” cultural issues (with God excepted, of course) that inflame the voters they are less and less reliant upon.

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UPDATE: The Post has a more detailed and interactive version of this data right here. By the way, you should regularly check out the Post’s interactive charts, which accompany every Post poll that is released. They’re highly useful and entertaining.

 

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.