Over the last year, Americans for Responsible Solutions commissioned considerable research to understand the attitudes and opinions of Americans on guns and gun violence. This research, including surveys and focus groups, focused primarily on swing and Republican leaning states. While strong majorities in every state have supported some tighter gun policies, women in particular advocate broader changes and support stronger laws.
To be sure, a partisan tilt towards Democrats drives some of women’s stronger support, but it does not account for all of it. In particular, independent women are far more open than their male counterparts to reforms, and in some cases, so are Republican women.
Women are more likely to want stronger gun laws, are less favorable towards the NRA (in only one state, Alaska, did 50 percent of women rate the NRA favorably), and believe it is more important to protect people from gun violence. Women, especially Hispanic women, moms, and unmarried women, are more open to messaging on guns and shift towards candidates with pro-gun violence prevention messaging and/or supporting stronger gun laws.
The following highlight findings from statewide surveys of registered and likely voters in Arizona, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Nevada, Alaska, Virginia, and Texas.
Women Support Stronger Gun Laws
In every state surveyed by Americans for Responsible Solutions, women were more likely to support stronger gun laws than men, as opposed to keeping the laws as they are now or supporting looser laws. The gap between men and women ranged from 17 points in Alaska, to 10 points in North Dakota.
While, generally, Democratic men and women supported stronger gun laws at similar rates, independent women and Republican women support stronger gun laws at higher rates than men in their respective parties. For example, in Texas, 41 percent of independent women want stronger gun laws compared to 29 percent of independent men, and there was a 15 point gap between Republican men and women. In Alaska, the gap between Republican men and women was 19 points, with almost a third of Republican women supporting stronger gun laws. In Virginia, 58 percent of gun-owning women want stronger gun laws compared to 44 percent of gun-owning men.
Women support specific gun policies at rates higher than men do as well. While broad majorities of men and women support background checks, we see significant differences between men and women, again especially among independent and Republican women.
In North Dakota, 81 percent of independent women support background checks while only 69 percent of independent men support them. The numbers are nearly identical among Republicans (83 percent support among women; 65 percent support among men). In Texas, Democratic, independent, and Republican women support background checks at a similar rate, while their independent and Republican male counterpoints drop off. And in Alaska, there is a dramatic 20 point gap between independent men and women and a 25 point gap between Republican men and women.
While background checks generate as close to universal support as any policy can, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines can divide voters in conservative leaning states. The gap between men and women grows with these additional restrictions.
Banning assault weapons enjoys support among 70 percent of the women in Virginia, while only 46 percent of men support it. In Texas, 60 percent of women support a ban compared to 37 percent of men. In Texas in particular, banning assault weapons boasts much stronger support among women of all parties: nearly 50 percent of independent women and Republican women want them banned, compared to 33 percent of independent men and 14 percent of Republican men. The trend is nearly identical with banning high-capacity magazines.
Finally, there is broad support for laws that are more likely to protect women, including domestic abusers, stalkers, and those with restraining orders turning in their guns. Democratic, Republican, and independent women support these laws at nearly identical rates, while Republican and independent male support drops off by about 20 points. Clearly, while many issues are divided by hyper-partisanship, there is much women of all political parties can agree on when it comes to our gun laws.
Women Are Important Electoral Targets for Gun Messaging
Women are less likely to support candidates who oppose background checks. In Arizona, for example, 52 percent of women are less likely to support Senator Flake because of his opposition to background checks, 16 points higher than men. Women are also more likely to respond positively to messaging on guns. In particular, unmarried women, independent women, moms, and Hispanic women are considerably more likely to shift towards candidates or stronger gun laws after hearing messages on both sides of the gun debate. In Texas, Hispanic women—the key to elections in many southern and western states—swing especially hard towards supporting strong gun laws.
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