Polling in the aftermath of a mass shooting in the U.S. usually follows a well-worn pattern. The first surveys, conducted with the tragedy still flashing across TV screens, show a brief uptick in concern about gun violence, and maybe a spike in the national appetite for tighter firearm restrictions. Then, as soon as the story fades from the headlines, the increase is gone.
This time looks different.
A HuffPost/YouGov survey taken immediately after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, found the same familiar uptick. But in the days since, the numbers have continued to shift in favor of congressional action on guns. There’s also a rising belief that Congress could actually take such action.
The deaths of 17 students and staff members Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ― and the surge of activism that’s followed, led by surviving classmates ― have, the polling suggests, moved the national debate in a way that last year’s shootings at a Las Vegas concert and a Texas church did not.
Americans now say by a nearly a two-to-one margin, 50 percent to 26 percent, that it’s politically possible to pass stricter gun laws ― a high in polling since 2015, and a remarkable swing from less than two weeks ago, when just 38 percent saw it as feasible.
The shift spans political lines and includes both those who favor such a change and those who don’t. The share of Hillary Clinton voters believing new laws can be passed rose by 13 percentage points, while the share of Donald Trump voters rose 17 points.
Active support for making gun laws stricter has increased more modestly in the HuffPost/YouGov poll: It currently stands at 58 percent, up from the 48-to-54-percent range it occupied from last year.
But other questions show more substantial movement in a willingness to accept new restrictions, and in a sense that they’re legislatively achievable.
Sixty percent of Americans now say that mass shootings are something that can be stopped, rather than a fact of life in the country ― up 18 points from as recently as last October. A 51 percent majority say Congress should take action to reduce mass shootings, up 10 points since last year.
And 65 percent, including a majority in both parties, now say that it’s possible to enact some kinds of new gun regulations while still maintaining Americans’ right to bear arms. Immediately after last year’s Las Vegas shootings, just 53 percent said so.
Much of the change on this question appears due to a shift of opinion on the right. A majority of Trump voters, 52 percent, now say gun laws could be tightened without violating the Second Amendment, up from 43 percent immediately after the Parkland shooting and just 33 percent after last year’s Las Vegas shooting. Among Republicans, the number is currently 61 percent, up from 42 percent last fall.
The change in opinion on guns should come with a sizable helping of caveats. Public support for gun control ― and especially for specific measures like background checks, which enjoy near-universal support ― has long outpaced the implementation of actual policy on the issue, in part because opponents of gun restrictions have been more likely to make their views heard to officials.
And though the 21 percent who count gun issues among their top priorities in the HuffPost/YouGov poll is notably higher than it was last year, the topic still ranks behind issues like health care and the economy. It’s also unclear whether the momentum behind this push for gun control will last the months until the midterm elections.
At this moment, however, the political landscape looks more promising for gun control advocates than it has in some time.
Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups:
The HuffPost/YouGov poll is among a slew of recent surveys finding a substantial shift on gun control. A roundup of the latest from other outlets:
CNN: “Support for stricter gun laws has spiked to the highest level since 1993, and almost two-thirds say government and society can take action to prevent future mass shootings, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. The findings suggest the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, has shifted public opinion on gun laws in a way other recent mass shootings have not.”
Politico: “Support for stricter gun laws has spiked in polls conducted after the fatal South Florida school shooting, hitting its highest level in at least a quarter-century. Roughly 2 in 3 Americans now say gun control laws should be made more strict in the wake of the murder of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, according to a number of polls, including a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that shows support for stricter gun laws among registered voters at 68 percent, compared with just 25 percent who oppose stricter gun laws.”
Quinnipiac: “American voters support stricter gun laws 66-31 percent, the highest level of support ever measured by the independent Quinnipiac University National Poll, with 50-44 percent support among gun owners and 62- 35 percent support from white voters with no college degree and 58-38 percent support among white men.”
YouGov: “A majority of the public consistently has supported many gun control proposals: just over half in last week’s Economist/YouGov Polls say they want stricter gun laws in general. But support has not grown beyond that ― until now. … The movement towards supporting stricter gun laws has taken place across the political spectrum.”
Marist: “Following the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 71% of Americans, including 58% of gun owners, agree the laws governing the sale of firearms need to be stricter. This is up from 64% in October 2017. … Of note, 77% of Americans who say a candidate’s position on gun policy will have a major influence on their vote in this year’s midterm elections assert gun laws need to be strengthened.”
USA Today: “Americans overwhelmingly support tougher gun laws, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds, but they also overwhelmingly agree on this: Congress isn’t likely to act anytime soon.”
CBS: “Sixty-five percent of Americans now say laws covering the sale of guns should be stricter ― an eight-point increase from December. It is the highest number recorded in this poll for stricter gun sale laws. The rise has been primarily among Republicans and independents, with a large increase among Republicans from last December. Democrats remain in favor.”
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Feb. 26-28 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.
HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn moreabout this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.
Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.