The Gun Vote and 2014: Will There Be an Electoral Price?
Did the senators who voted against a proposal last week to expand background checks on gun buyers take an electoral risk?
At first glance, it would seem that they did. Background checks are broadly popular with the public. Overwhelming majorities of 80 to 90 percent of the public say they favor background checks when guns are purchased at gun shows, at gun shops or online. Support for background checks drops when guns are bought through informal channels, or gifts from family members — but the amendment that the Senate voted upon last week, sponsored by the Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, would have exempted most of these cases.
And yet, the Senate did not behave as though this was a piece of legislation favored by 80 percent or more of the public. The analysis that we posted last week suggested that, if anything, senators who are up for re-election in 2014 were less likely to vote for the bill.
TLDR: Despite the claim that 90% of Americans support background checks, many didn’t support the actual bill or saw it as a proxy for rating their Senator’s attitude towards guns. Nate feels that the Republicans that voted against the bill were relatively safe in 2014 and it was in part voted against to protect vulnerable house Republican from having to make the vote.
What it appears is that support for Universal Background Checks is wide but shallow and that those who oppose any further gun control legislation are likely to be highly committed single issue voters.