A new MinnPost/Change Research poll, conducted in the wake of the Uvalde mass shooting that left 19 school children and two adults dead, found strong support of some tighter gun control measures among the Minnesota electorate.
It found a sizable majority of Minnesota voters in support of stronger background checks for gun purchasers, for red flag laws that allow guns to be temporarily taken away from people who may be a danger to themselves or others, and for requiring gun buyers to be 21 or older. Support for other gun control measures was more tepid.
The poll found large gaps between Republicans and Democrats on most gun control measures, which experts say are likely to be a major obstacle to the passage of major legislation tightening restrictions on guns.
Majority, if not bipartisan, support
The poll, commissioned by MinnPost and conducted by Change Research, surveyed 1,551 likely general election voters from across Minnesota between June 3 and June 8.
It found 64 percent of Minnesotans were strongly or somewhat in favor of red flag laws.
And it found 69 percent of likely Minnesota voters strongly or somewhat in favor of a requirement that gun buyers be at least 21 years old.
While the poll suggests more than 60 percent of Minnesota voters support such measures, Republicans and Democrats did not back them equally.
While 93 percent of Democrats voiced some level of support for red flag laws, 38 Republicans did. Similarly, 95 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of Republicans favored raising the age requirement for purchasing guns to 21.
The poll found majority — but less overwhelming — support for other proposed gun control measures, and similar partisan divide on these issues.
57 percent of the likely Minnesota voters polled said they would strongly or somewhat favor a ban on high-capacity magazines, which allow a person shooting a gun to fire many bullets without reloading. Ninty-two percent of Democrats and 22 percent of Republicans support the measure.
A slim majority — 56 percent of those surveyed — said they strongly or somewhat favored a federal government database to track all gun sales, including 90 percent of Democrats and 23 percent of Republicans.
Fifty-four percent of respondents said they somewhat or strongly favored a ban on assault-style weapons like the one used in the Uvalde shooting. That included 91 percent of Democrats and 18 percent of Republicans.
The poll’s results aren’t surprising, given that they largely mirror national polls on these issues, said Monika McDermott, a professor of political science at Fordham University who studies public opinion. But they do suggest Minnesota voters have less enthusiasm for gun control measures than the U.S. electorate at large — something that could affect the likelihood of such measures becoming law in Minnesota.
“It’s a very touchy issue in Minnesota,” she said.
Support on both sides
The poll found more bipartisan support for one gun control proposal: requiring background checks in private gun sales and at gun shows.
The poll found 76 percent of Minnesota voters, including 97 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of Republicans, said they somewhat or strongly favored making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks.
Higher levels of support from both Republicans and Democrats could make stricter background checks an easier matter to pass legislation on in Minnesota, McDermott said.
Among the poll’s other gun control findings: Women were more likely to support gun control measures than men. Also, support and opposition for gun control measures was relatively consistent across age groups.
Given the partisan divide, it’s not a huge surprise that support for gun control in public opinion polls doesn’t always translate into legislation, said Kevin Parsneau, a political science professor at Mankato State University.
“If you’re a Republican, you don’t really want to buck your party supporters on gun control, even if it might be more popular in your district,” he said: it can be something that either provokes a primary challenge or becomes a campaign issue in the future, a danger if public opinion shifts.
While MinnPost’s poll was in the field soon after Uvalde, it may not have been heavily affected by the event, Parsneau said: public opinion on gun control is relatively sticky.
“It isn’t like Sept. 11 where, all-of-a-sudden, nobody’s particularly concerned about terrorism, and then everybody’s concerned about terrorism,” Parsneau said.
While some voters may consider gun control a more important issue now than in the past, it’s unclear how many will still have it top-of-mind by the time of the election on Nov. 8 with everything else going on, from inflation and economic issues to a potential overturning of Roe v. Wade and COVID-19.
By then, “we could all learn another Greek letter of the alphabet regarding COVID,” Parsneau said.
Change Research’s online polling methodology uses targeted social media ads and text messages to recruit respondents. The organization has a B- pollster rating from FiveThirtyEight.
The company uses a “modeled” margin of error, which it says accounts for the effects of weighting the poll (or making adjustments to better reflect the state’s demographics). The results were weighted on age, gender, ethnicity, 2020 vote and region. The margin of error for the statewide sample was +/- 2.6 percentage points. The margin of error for Democrats and leaners is +/- 3.7 percentage points. For Republicans and leaners, it is +/- 3.9 percentage points. For pure independents, it is +/- 6.6 percentage points.
MinnPost will release more results from the poll in the coming days.