Party Views Diverge Most on U.S. Gun Policies

Party Views Diverge Most on U.S. Gun Policies

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Party supporters similarly satisfied with race relations, crime policies

PRINCETON, NJ -- Of 17 U.S. policy areas, gun laws spark the greatest difference between Republicans and Democrats in terms of their satisfaction with the nation's policies in each area. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans and 28% of Democrats are satisfied with U.S. gun laws, a difference of 31 percentage points. U.S. policies on crime, the state of race relations, and the quality of public education elicit the smallest differences in Republicans' and Democrats' satisfaction.

Gaps in Policy Satisfaction With State of the Nation, by Political Party, January 2013

These results are based on Gallup's Jan. 7-10 Mood of the Nation poll. At 43%, Americans' overall level of satisfaction with the nation's gun laws is about average for the 17 areas tested. Americans are most satisfied with the nation's military strength and preparedness, and least satisfied with the state of the economy.

In addition to gun laws, Republicans' and Democrats' satisfaction differs widely on U.S. immigration levels, the amount Americans pay in federal taxes, abortion policies, the Social Security and Medicare systems, and the U.S. role in world affairs. On each of these, Democrats are much more satisfied than Republicans.

In fact, Democrats are more satisfied than Republicans with the state of the nation on nearly all issues tested except gun laws, environmental quality, and efforts to address poverty and homelessness. There are small but not significant Republican advantages in satisfaction on race relations and crime.

Democrats are evidently more inclined to see things positively, given that the nation is being governed by a Democratic president. In 2005, at the beginning of Republican George W. Bush's second term in office, Republicans were generally more satisfied with the state of the nation in most areas than Democrats were. Back then, the only issue on which Democrats were more satisfied than Republicans was immigration levels.

Satisfaction With Military, Security From Terrorism High for Both Parties on Relative Basis

Republican and Democratic differences in satisfaction naturally mean there are differences in the issues with which the party groups are most and least satisfied. On a relative basis, though, both Republicans and Democrats are most satisfied with the nation's military strength and preparedness. Security from terrorism also ranks near the top of the list for each party. Gun laws rank among Republicans' top issues.

Highest Levels of Satisfaction in Key Issue Areas, by Party, January 2013

At the same time, gun policy is one of the issue areas Democrats are least satisfied with, behind only efforts to deal with poverty and homelessness. The latter is also an area with which Republicans are highly dissatisfied. Republicans are least satisfied with the state of the economy, with Democrats also rating the economy relatively low. Notably, healthcare remains an area in which Democrats are less satisfied compared with other issues, even after passage of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. However, that may change once the law is fully implemented.

Lowest Levels of Satisfaction in Key Issue Areas, by Party, January 2013


Democrats and Republicans view the state of the nation differently, but both groups are generally satisfied with the military and national security. They are also less satisfied with the state of the economy and efforts to deal with poverty and homelessness.

Notably, party supporters differ most starkly on three policy areas that will be a major focus of the Obama administration this year: gun policy, immigration, and federal taxes. That clearly creates a situation in which the two parties likely disagree on the need or urgency of government action in these areas, which makes passing legislation to address these issues more challenging.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 7-10, 2013, with a random sample of 1,011 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For results based on the total sample of 470 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents and 430 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cell phone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phones numbers are selected using random digit dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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