Elections

Poll: Americans fear gun violence over terrorism by large margin

In this July 20, 2012, file photo, a row of different AR-15 style rifles are displayed for sale at the Firing-Line indoor range and gun shop in Aurora, Colo. A new McClatchy-Marist poll finds that voters are more fearful of being victims of gun violence than an act of terrorism.
In this July 20, 2012, file photo, a row of different AR-15 style rifles are displayed for sale at the Firing-Line indoor range and gun shop in Aurora, Colo. A new McClatchy-Marist poll finds that voters are more fearful of being victims of gun violence than an act of terrorism. AP

When it comes to danger, voters are far more afraid of gun violence than terrorism.

But like almost everything else this election season, there’s a partisan split, a new McClatchy-Marist poll finds.

Overall, 63 percent of registered votes say they’re more worried that they or someone they know will be a victim of gun violence, while 29 percent more fear that they or a friend will fall prey to a terrorist attack.

Democrats and independents lean heavily toward gun violence as the bigger threat, a sentiment reflected in the party’s push for stricter gun laws in the wake of mass shootings this year in Charleston, S.C., Rosenburg, Ore., and Lafayette, La.

Democrats fear guns over terrorism by 77-15 percent. Independents fear gun violence over terrorism by 64-28 percent.

Republicans edge toward terrorism as the bigger threat, but only narrowly, by 50-45 percent over a fear of gun violence.

African-American voters have the biggest concern about guns: 71 percent say they’re worried about being a victim of gun violence and only 13 percent are afraid of being caught in a terrorist attack.

“There are a lot of Republicans concerned about gun violence,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducts the survey. “But Republicans are more concerned about issues of terrorism than about guns.”

Miringoff said the percentage of Republicans concerned about gun violence reflects rank-and-file Republicans more than the GOP’s tea party and conservative base, which the presidential candidates will need to win the nomination.

Tea party supporters skew more toward terrorism as the greater threat, by 57-37 percent. And given their activist voice in primaries, that helps explain the campaign.

If you’re a Republican candidate worried about the Republican base in the primaries, you’re going to want to be talking about terrorism and what’s happening in the Middle East.

Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion

Overall, the 2-to-1 concern over domestic gun violence dovetails with the U.S. looking inward rather than abroad in the years since the 2001 terrorist attacks spiked concerns.

Voters largely agree that the 2016 elections should be about domestic issues such as the economy, health care and repairing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

Social policy, once a front-burner issue in presidential campaigns, has cooled off considerably. Only 7 percent of voters said the election should be about issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion.

69-21% The ratio by which voters rank domestic issues as a priority over foreign policy matters such as terrorism and ISIS.

But the area with the sharpest contrasts between voters is the economy. Overall, 27 percent feel economic growth must be addressed, 22 percent think jobs is the main priority, and 21 percent say income inequality must be addressed.

Democrats rank their priorities: income inequality, jobs and economic growth.

“I’m tired that we’re addressing the rest of the world’s problems when we have a tremendous amount of failing infrastructure here in the U.S.,” said Brian Hickey, 36, a Democratic voter from Raleigh, N.C. “We need a jobs bill or something to address where we could create jobs. You have to have a college degree just to manage a Bojangles. Minimum wage is a joke, you can only pay rent. I have children and I very much want them to have a successful future.”

Republicans rank their priorities differently, with the federal deficit No. 1, followed by economic growth and jobs. Only 4 percent of Republican voters think income inequality is the main issue.

“I think the biggest thing that I have seen is getting the budgets in line and reducing the debts that we have and trying to bring things more in focus,” said Robert Brennan, 74, a Republican voter from Issaquah,Wash.

“That to me is one of the most important things that we can get our hands around,” he said. “We’re wasting money and there’s no accountability or responsibility for the money they’re taking away from the taxpayers.”

Independents rank growth first, followed by income inequality and the federal budget deficit.

Vera Bergengruen, Lesley Clark, Iana Kozelsky, Anita Kumar, Alexandria Montag, Grace Toohey and Victoria Whitley contributed to this story.

William Douglas: 202-383-6026, @williamgdouglas

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