When President Barack Obama made a push for stricter gun control laws the first major policy push of his second term, he repeatedly cited polling showing wide support for expanded background checks for gun purchases.
But despite the December 2012 massacre at Newtown, Conn., there was never a true national outcry for new federal gun restrictions, just like little was accomplished after previous mass shootings that briefly drew national outrage.
That is encapsulated in a new poll out Thursday by the centrist think tank Third Way, which over-surveyed self-described moderates in an attempt to gauge what centrist voters think.
The vast majority of all Americans – 93% of liberals, 84% of moderates and 72% of conservatives — favor expanding background checks, which now are required for guns purchased from licensed dealers but not in private sales or at most gun shows. But 58%of self-described moderates still say existing gun laws are sufficient to keep their community safe.
And when asked if there should be more government regulation of gun purchases, just 53% of moderates agree. For liberals, the figure is 78%.
A couple of caveats: The poll of moderates is inherently skewed toward Democrats. Only 26% of Republicans consider themselves moderate – just ask former Sen. Richard Lugar (R., Ind.) – while 37% of Democrats use the label.
And it’s worth pointing out that Third Way was among the groups pushing the Senate last year during the failed effort to expand background checks.