Mental Health Measures Broadly Backed, but Culture Gets More Blame Than Guns

Americans split evenly, 49-50 percent, on whether stricter gun laws would reduce violent crime, with a 20-point difference between men and women, and more than a 30-point gap between Republicans and Democrats and between conservatives and liberals. Overall, only 27 percent think such laws would do "a lot" to reduce violence.

The public, by a 23-point margin, 52 to 29 percent, continues to prefer better enforcement of existing gun laws to enactment of new ones. On this a majority of men (58 percent) and a plurality of women (46 percent) agree, while partisan and ideological divisions are sharper.

Asked the primary cause of gun violence, far more Americans blamed the effects of popular culture (40 percent) or the way parents raise their children (35 percent) than the availability of guns (18 percent). In no population group does more than about a fourth cite the availability of guns as the chief cause of gun violence.

In the most direct political calculation, 60 percent said they could vote for a political candidate with whom they disagree on gun control.

Notably, two-thirds of gun control supporters said they could still vote for someone who disagrees with them on the issue -- but among gun control opponents that drops to 49 percent. Given the size of each group, that makes for essentially identical numbers of single-issue pro- and anti-gun voters, despite gun control's 61 percent popularity overall.

In one possible shift, more people today said they'd only vote for a candidate who agreed with them on gun control -- 31 percent overall -- than said so in a March 2004 poll, 23 percent. One reason may be that the 2004 poll focused on various political issues; while this one this one focused directly on guns and gun crime. It's a measure to keep watching.

One other change is that, compared with a 2000 Gallup poll, more people now blame gun violence on popular culture, and fewer blame it on child-rearing. But about the same number chiefly blame the availability of guns.

Concerns

Substantial numbers in this survey expressed concerns both about the performance of Virginia Tech in advance of the shootings and of the news media afterward. Given the behavior of the gunman in the months leading up to the shooting, 54 percent said the university did not do enough to investigate concerns about his mental health.

As for the media, the public divided on the airing of photos and videos the shooter had prepared of himself -- 48 percent said it was wrong for news organizations to air these, while 43 percent said it was the right thing to do. Opposition peaked among older and better-educated adults; about six in 10 in both groups said it was wrong for the news organizations to air these videos.

Methodology

This ABC News poll was conducted by telephone April 22, 2007, among a random national sample of 788 adults. The results have a 3.5-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

Click here for PDF version with full questionnaire and results.

Click here for more ABC News polls in our Poll Vault.

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