On some specific issues, however, there is greater bipartisan accord. Requiring background checks for guns purchased at gun shows, for example, receives overwhelming support from both parties. So does a law making illegal gun sales a federal crime.
On the other hand, a law that would ban the sale of assault weapons remains a divisive partisan issue. Overall, a majority of Americans (57 percent) support a ban. But just 43 percent of Republicans favor it, compared to 77 percent of Democrats.
The new numbers come as the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced measures Tuesday to expand the background check system and a school security program. The background check bill is a placeholder, as lawmakers hope to get past disagreements that have stalled progress on a bipartisan measure.
Last week, the committee advanced a measure to make illegal gun purchases a federal crime. And later this week, it will take on the politically thorniest issue: the assault weapons ban.
On the one hand, it's notable that the ban, which has the support of nearly six in 10 Americans, would be so difficult for lawmakers to pass. On the other, it's not so unexpected, since Congressional Republicans (especially those in the House) represent a smaller slice of the public that isn't necessarily aligned with the country as a whole. In the House, where there are more GOP-leaning districts than Democratic-leaning ones, opposing the ban makes sense for many Republicans.
What's more, Republicans haven't paid a broad political price for opposing the ban, even though it is popular with the public. Obama (41 percent) and Congressional Republicans (42 percent) are virtually running even on the question of whom Americans trust to do a better job on the issue of gun control.
In short, the support of most Americans will not necessarily lead to passage of certain gun-control measures, even in the wake of a deadly mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. that refocused the public's attention to gun violence.
Scott Clement, a polling analyst with Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media, contributed to this report.