A large majority of American voters want tighter gun control laws and background checks, but they don’t expect Congress to pass such restrictions, according to a Suffolk University/USA Today national poll of registered voters.

The poll also showed increasing disapproval of President Donald Trump’s performance, with 60 percent of voters disapproving or strongly disapproving of the job he is doing, compared to 47 percent who disapproved in a March 2017 Suffolk University/USA Today poll. Trump’s approval rating now stands at 38 percent, compared to 47 percent a year ago.

“President Trump’s job performance ratings have had several ups and downs in the past year, with last March’s relatively strong showing coming in the aftermath of a well-received speech to Congress,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “The bump he got after signing the tax bill in December appears to have been overwhelmed in light of young people challenging him on gun issues and the investigation of Russian meddling in U.S elections.”

Gun violence

Voters showed support for a variety of approaches to curbing gun violence in America in the aftermath of the most recent school shooting, which claimed 17 lives and spurred protests and walkouts among students across the country.

  • 76 percent said that people treated for mental illness should be banned from owning a firearm, compared to 12 percent who disagree; 11 percent were undecided.
  • 61 percent said that tighter gun control laws and background checks would prevent more mass shootings, while 33 percent disagreed and 6 percent were undecided
  • 63 percent want semi-automatic weapons banned, and 29 percent do not.
  • When asked whether restricting access to guns or improving mental health care would be more effective in curbing mass shootings, 39 percent said mental health care is more important, 31 percent chose gun controls, and 25 percent said a combination of the two would be best.
  • Voters also favored a requirement that an armed police officer be stationed at schools by 58 percent to 32 percent, and 62 percent said they also should be required to have metal detectors.

Expectations of Congress

Yet 51 percent said the chances of seeing Congress pass gun-control measures are poor; 25 percent said there is a fair chance, and 19 percent said the prospects are good to excellent.

“Voters see a Congress that is deaf to their wishes about remedying gun violence in the United States,” said Paleologos.

Additional polling

This is the first release of a poll that addresses many national issues. Voters’ take on the investigation of Russian interference with U.S. elections and their views on the midterm Congressional elections are forthcoming.

Methodology

The nationwide survey of 1,000 voters was conducted Feb. 20 through 24 using live telephone interviews of households where respondents indicated they were registered to vote. The margin of error is +/-3 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website.. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, dpaleologos@suffolk.edu.