Plurality of Illinois voters see gun law debate as political, not about public safety

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Illinois has been a center of the gun control debate in recent weeks, with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pouring $2 million into last week’s special election to support the candidate whom he felt was the most pro-gun control. A new poll, however, shows that a plurality of Illinois voters feel that the renewed focus on the issue has less to do with public safety than with politics.

A survey of Illinois voters conducted by McKeon and Associates for the Freedom to Choose PAC found that just 25 percent of Illinois voters believe the debate over gun restrictions is about public safety, while 45 percent believe it is actually about politics.

The poll surveyed 804 Illinois voters on February 27. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent.

A majority of Illinois voters said they felt that the types of gun law reforms being pushed by Bloomberg, along with the White House and some members of congress, would help reduce gun violence. Sixty-seven percent said they believed banning high capacity ammunitions clips — those containing more than 10 bullets — would be somewhat more or more likely to reduce gun violence. Eighty-seven percent said they favored background checks at gun shows.

But few supported encouraging people “not to invest in Illinois companies that manufacture or distribute assault weapons – which could force these companies to close or leave the state costing Illinois over 5,000 jobs and more than a half billion dollars in revenue.” Forty-eight percent said they opposed such a move, while 22 percent said they would favor it.

Voters were divided on whether “banning the sale of firearms between private citizens” would bring down gun violence. Forty-one percent said it would be likely to do so, while 42 percent said it would be unlikely to do so.

A majority of Illinois voters also said they would be more likely to vote for an elected official who supported conceal and carry legislation for gun owners — 48 percent said they would be more likely, and 26 percent said they would be somewhat more likely. Just 14 percents said they would be somewhat less likely or not at all likely to vote for someone who supported that policy.

An 87 percent majority said they would also be more likely to vote for a candidate that supported background checks for people buying guns at gun shows. 95 percent said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate that supported “reforming our mental health laws to help keep firearms out of the hands of people with mental illness.”

In spite of the $2.2 million spent by Bloomberg, the National Rifle Association has emerged with a net positive approval rating in the state as a whole. A 46 percent plurality said they strongly favored or favored the organization, while 28 percent said they had unfavorable or strongly unfavorable opinion of the group. Statewide, that makes the NRA more popular than either Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn (38 percent net favorable, 47 percent net unfavorable), and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (30 percent net favorable, 46 percent net unfavorable).

Emmanuel and Quinn both remain more popular than the NRA in Chicago, which comprises part of the 2nd Congressional District, where Bloomberg’s ads were targeted.

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