Republicans are open to gun control. But not President Obama’s gun control plan

January 24, 2013

A slight majority of Americans give positive marks to new gun control proposals put forward by President Obama but Republicans have also rallied in opposition to the plan, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.


Overall, 53 percent of the public carries a favorable impression of Obama's proposals while 41 percent are opposed.

While the poll represents a first reaction to the president's plan, views on it are surprisingly hardened already. Almost seven in 10 give the plan "strongly" favorable (38 percent) or strongly unfavorable ratings (31 percent).

And, partisans have closed ranks.  Fully 76 percent of Democrats rate Obama's proposals favorably, while nearly as many Republicans say the opposite (72 percent). Independents tilt positively toward the newly announced restrictions: 51 percent favorable and 44 percent unfavorable.

By contrast, a separate Post-ABC poll conducted before Obama's announcement found Republicans overwhelmingly supporting -- or no worse than evenly divided -- on four central Obama proposals. Nearly nine in 10 Republicans in that survey supported requiring background checks at gun shows, 65 percent supported adding armed guards in schools and 59 percent supported a ban on high-capacity clips. Republicans' least-liked current proposal -- banning assault weapons -- was opposed by a modest 51 to 45 percent margin.

One potential reason for Republicans' rejection of the new proposals is principle. Obama unveiled a broad slate of new gun restrictions, and the vast majority of Republicans oppose stricter gun control laws (in general), according to a December Post-ABC poll. While polls found Republicans are open to specific gun control measures, they may be less open to a comprehensive approach.

Another possibility? It's Obama.

Republicans' sharp negative reaction to Obama's gun control proposals symbolizes a paradox of presidential leadership in a hyper-partisan era. Obama's full-throated endorsement of a comprehensive proposal may have increased the chances new gun restrictions become law. But as the chief messenger he also brings out a lot of ill from the opposition. And with Republicans deeply distrustful of Obama -- 80 percent disapproved of his performance in  a Post-ABC poll released last week -- the messenger will be judged just as much as the message.

The vast majority of Republicans already have a message of their own: No.

Click here to see interactive poll results by group, and see past surveys in the Post Polling Archive.

Clement is a polling analyst with Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media. Jon Cohen, Director of polling, and Capital Insight pollster Peyton M. Craighill contributed to this report.

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