Fox News is running with an attention-grabbing headline:
Fox News poll: During a manhunt, 69 percent of voters want a gun
This is generating a bit of excitement on Twitter. But here’s what this Fox News poll also finds:
Would you be more likely or less likely to support a political candidate who voted IN FAVOR OF expanding background checks on gun buyers?
More likely: 68
Less likely: 20
Would you be more likely or less likely to support a political candidate who voted AGAINST expanding background checks on gun buyers?
More likely: 23
Less likely: 61
The poll also finds that 82 percent of voters — and 72 percent of Republicans, and 77 percent of people from gun-owning households — support expanding background checks.
Clearly, the liberal media conspiracy to manufacture false impressions of overwhelming public support for Obama’s gun-grabbing policies has spread to Fox News.
Now, these findings don’t go to the intensity question, i.e., how likely it is that this issue will be prioritized over others or whether a candidate’s position on it will ultimately motivate people to organize, lobby or donate money to Senators. But they suggest, again, that expanding background checks remains very popular and that a lawmaker’s vote on it could matter, at least to some degree.
Another key point about this polling: It suggests that people don’t view expanding background checks as incompatible with the right to bear arms or the right to self defense. The Fox poll finds that sizable majorities want a gun to protect themselves during a terror manhunt — even as bigger majorities also support expanding background checks. Indeed, the poll finds overwhelming support for expanding checks, even though it also finds that 53 percent believe protecting the Constitutional right to bear arms is more important than protecting people from gun violence.
All of this is a reminder that most Americans simply don’t view expanding background checks as an infringement on the rights of the law abiding, despite the constant efforts by the right to cast the proposal as the first step on a slippery slope to a place where your gun rights will get stamped out under the heel of a jackboot.
A recent Post poll also bore this out, finding that 55 percent think new gun control laws can be implemented without infringing on the Second Amendment rights of gun owners. As Chris Cillizza noted, the Post finding suggests that there is an emerging middle ground in the debate: “the idea that new gun laws need not necessarily interfere with the rights of gun owners.” Today’s Fox poll suggests the same.
Broadly speaking, only one party holds that sensible middle ground position — the Democratic Party. As it happens, a majority of the Senate is also aligned with this middle ground, having voted for Manchin-Toomey. Meanwhile, the other party — the GOP — is well to the right of this middle ground position, with virtually every Republican Senator voting against Manchin-Toomey. Many of them made the argument that expanding background checks does trample on the rights of the law abiding, a position majorities of the American people reject.
The GOP position carried the day, of course. But that’s because individual Senators don’t see any need to vote with the will of the people on this issue, which they view as a non-motivating one, and because the right is very well organized around it. It’s also because Republicans have turned the Upper Chamber into a super-majority body. But none of this changes the fact that the GOP position in this debate is extreme and well outside the mainstream, while the Democratic position occupies the sensible middle ground.