Three-quarters of registered voters in the Garden State favor greater restrictions on guns and ammunition, according to the most recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind. The only proposal offered to reduce gun violence in society that garners more support is instituting more proactive mental illness measures (93%). Rounding out the list of measures with majority support is reducing the level of violence in movies and videogames (61%).
“The Newtown shooting has brought the issue of gun violence back into the national spotlight, and New Jersey voters are clearly united behind the belief that more needs to be done to address preventable tragedies that result from guns ending up in the hands of the wrong people,” said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “Recently proposed legislation in the New Jersey Assembly that would require mental health evaluations and home inspections for potential gun owners has the potential to receive public support.”
When it comes to measures that have been offered in response to the recent tragedy by gun rights advocates – placing armed guards in public places like schools, and fewer restrictions on firearms and ammunition – Garden Staters are decidedly less supportive. Residents oppose, by 50 percent, the National Rifle Association’s proposed plan to arm schools, with 45 percent in favor. A significantly smaller percentage of voters (24%) support fewer restrictions on guns and ammunition.
“A lack of support for these measures comes as no surprise since New Jersey residents are clearly more pro-gun control in their beliefs than supportive of the rights of gun owners,” said Jenkins. Fifty-eight percent of respondents identify themselves as “pro-gun control,” compared with nearly a third (31%) who consider themselves to be “pro-gun ownership.”
It’s also notable that New Jersey is less armed than the rest of the nation. Sixteen percent say they or someone in their household owns a handgun or other firearm. As for the effect that owning a firearm has on an individual’s attitudes toward gun control, gun owners are far less likely to endorse more restrictions. A slight majority of gun owners (53%) support more restrictions, while four out of five non-gun owners offer a similar response (81%). Gun ownership is less determinative of attitudes toward other proposed measures.
Across virtually all of the measures proposed to reduce gun violence, some predictable demographic differences emerge. Democrats (89%) and women (83%) stand out as comparatively strong supporters of greater restrictions on guns and ammunition, while Republicans (62%) and men (68%) are less supportive. Women also stand out for their strong support toward efforts to reduce the level of violence in movies and videogames (72%). When it comes to placing armed guards in public places such as schools and shopping malls, some of the greatest support comes from non-whites. Sixty-four percent support this idea, compared with 37 percent of whites.
“Despite partisan and other differences regarding select proposals, it’s equally important to point out that groups differ largely over the magnitude of their support. There’s a fairly broad consensus across a variety of groups in New Jersey over what folks would like to both do and not do in order to stem the tide of gun violence,” said Jenkins. The greatest consensus can be found in regard to better screening and treatment options for the mentally ill. More than 90 percent of all demographic categories favor this as a way to limit gun violence.
“Taken as a whole, these findings underscore the appreciation that Garden State residents have for the complexity of solving the problem of gun violence,” said Jenkins. “There is no simple solution, and voters, to varying degrees, are open to the idea of trying some proposals more than others.”
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 700 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from January 2 through January 6, 2013, and has a margin of error of +/-3.7 percentage points.