MTSU poll: Sharp jump in voter support of stricter gun laws, voter majority say sexual allegations reflect society-wide problems


Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune

Support for stricter laws on gun sales has jumped by 24 percentage points among Tennessee voters, and a majority of voters believe that recent sexual harassment and assault allegations against powerful men represent widespread problems in society, according to a newly released MTSU poll.

The answers from the poll were gathered from 600 registered Tennessee voters via randomly selected cell and landline phone numbers.

Gun control 

On the topic of gun control, 58 percent of poll participants answered “more strict” when asked, “In general, do you think laws covering the sale of guns should be made more strict, less strict or kept as they are now?” These results show a sharp rise in support as survey participants were asked the same question in 2016, and the results at that time displayed that only 34 percent of voters supported stricter laws regarding gun sales. Furthermore, 6 percent of participants answered “less strict,” which is a drop from the 17 percent that answered the same way in 2016. Finally, 33 percent answered “kept as they are now,” which displays a drop from 44 percent in 2016, and the rest don’t know or declined to answer.

“(The poll) was taken in the same week that the ‘March For Our Lives’ demonstrations happened in Washington, D.C. and around the country,” said Kenneth Blake, the MTSU poll director.

Poll participants were also asked if they supported stricter laws regarding carrying guns. 46 percent of participants answered that these laws should be “more strict,” which is a 12-point climb from 34 percent in 2016. 11 percent answered “less strict,” a 7 percent drop from 18 percent in 2016, and 39 percent answered “kept as they are,” which represents a 4 percent drop from 43 percent in 2016. The remaining participants don’t know or declined to answer.

“What’s happened basically is that support seems to have risen across all demographic groups: age, gender, income and race,” Blake said. “In all those groups, the opinion on stricter laws on selling and carrying guns has just kind of moved up across the board. What we don’t know is if this is a sudden change or if it has changed gradually over the past two years.”

Despite the favorable results when it comes to the support of stricter gun laws, 58 percent of voters hold favorable views toward the National Rifle Association. Alternatively, only 36 percent hold mostly or very unfavorable views of the organization. 49 percent of voters also agree with the NRA’s stance that teachers and administrators should be able to carry guns on school grounds. However, 43 percent disagree and say that teachers and administrators should not carry guns on school grounds, and the rest don’t know or declined to answer.

President Donald Trump tweeted his support for the idea of arming teachers in February. The tweet stated that teachers who are armed should “get a yearly bonus” and that the provision of arming educators would be a “big and very inexpensive deterrent” for school shootings.

A bill that would allow for armed teachers in Tennessee was defeated by lawmakers in early April.

Sexual misconduct and “MeToo” movement

On the topic of sexual misconduct and the “MeToo” movement, the poll found that a 55 percent majority believes that allegations of sexual harassment or assault made against powerful and prominent men in media, entertainment and politics reflect “widespread problems in society.” Alternatively, only 33 percent of voters saw the allegations as “isolated incidents of individual misconduct.”

“These are two competing explanations for what these kinds of behaviors might mean,” Blake said. “One possibility is you have men acting badly. And, those men are bad, but that’s kind of as far as it goes. I think the other explanation is that, as a society and culture, we have things embedded in our society and culture that allow or maybe even encourage men to behave this way or that it is okay to treat women in this fashion … And, it seems that people think it’s the latter in Tennessee.”

When these results are broken down by gender demographics, the poll displays that 59 percent of women see the allegations as evidence of society-wide problems, while only 50 percent of men said the same. The poll also displays that 28 percent of women see the allegations as isolated and individual misconduct, while 37 percent of men said the same.

The poll also showed that awareness of the recent allegations is high among survey participants. Seventy percent of voters said that have read or heard “a lot” about the subject, and 22 percent said they have heard “a little” about the subject. Only 7 percent answered that they have heard “nothing at all.”

For more information and for previous poll results, visit here.

To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

For more news, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_News.

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