Gun violence worries poll respondents

NEW BRUNSWICK – Gun violence is a major worry for many N.J. registered voters, a new poll shows.

Two-thirds are “very concerned” about the scope of gun violence in America, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today.

The poll, taken before and after the Aug. 24 Empire State Building shooting, found that 65 percent of voters think gun control is more important than protecting gun owner rights.

Voters are split, however, on whether America has become more violent (42 percent) or if violence is simply more visible in the news (48 percent), the poll found.

Among the 22 percent of respondents with a gun in their household, a majority (53 percent) is very concerned over gun violence, while 41 percent agree that controlling ownership is more important than gun owner rights.

Nearly half of voters think New Jersey guns laws should be made stricter, though only 28 percent in households with guns are on board with tightening state laws; a plurality (40 percent) of these voters prefer gun laws remain unchanged.

“Interestingly, people we talked to after the Empire State Building shooting were no more concerned about gun violence than those we talked to beforehand,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University.

“The evening after the shooting, we got a slight increase in support for gun owner rights, opposite of what we expected, and people were more likely to say violence is not on the rise, just more visible in the news.”

Nearly half think news visibility has increased, while 42 percent see a real increase in gun violence. In 1999, when Eagleton last polled on this issue, the numbers were reversed: 51 percent believed there had been more gun violence while 42 percent thought visibility had increased.

Nearly two-thirds of New Jersey voters say controlling gun ownership is more important than gun owner rights. This represents a decline since 1999, when 73 percent preferred gun control over gun owner rights. Today, 72 percent without guns at home say gun control is more important than owner rights, 31 points higher than voters in gun-owning households.

Republicans, at 45 percent, are evenly split on the issue. Democrats overwhelmingly choose gun control over owner rights, 82 percent to 11 percent. By about a 2 to 1 margin, independent voters favor control over owners’ rights.

Results are from a poll of 916 registered voters conducted statewide among landline and cell phone households from Aug. 23-25.

The poll was in the field when the Empire State Building shooting occurred on Aug. 24. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.

"I’m an undertaker by trade, so when I bury somebody, they don’t come back."
—Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato