What do Utahns Think of Gun Control?

This analysis was performed by Ian Hansen, a student research fellow at BYU’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy (like us on Facebook), in collaboration with CSED faculty.  The writing is mostly his. Inquiries about this research should come to Quin Monson, Chris Karpowitz, or Kelly Patterson.

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, the public discourse regarding gun violence has intensified, both on the national and state levels.  Gun policy has attracted the attention of the Utah State Legislature, including the Second Amendment Preservation Act.

With the debate over gun control as a backdrop, we included questions regarding gun control on the January 2013  Key Research Survey. The results indicate that a majority of Utah voters oppose banning semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines. In keeping with patterns elsewhere in the country, differences exist along party lines.

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Although there seems to be little hope for agreement on most aspects of the gun debate, a national CBS/New York Times poll showed that 92% of Americans support a federal law requiring universal background checks for all potential gun buyers.  Similar to national data, the Utah data show overwhelming support for universal background checks:

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Figure 6While Utahns’ support for universal background checks is about 10 points lower than the national figure, the proposal is clearly still very popular. Figures 5 and 6 indicate that support for universal background checks remains very strong among both Republicans and those living in gun owner households.

The Key Research survey also included questions regarding gun policy in relation to schools:

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Finally, we conducted a factor analysis on these six gun policy proposals. A factor analysis takes a number of observed variables (in this case answers to several questions about gun control) and seeks to find out if these multiple variables can be reduced to fewer (unobserved) factors. Factor analysis provides a means to see what, if anything, some or all of the variables might share in common.   Factor analysis can be used for other issues such as government spending.

A factor analysis of the six items on gun control (see table below) shows that four of the six gun control variables relate to one factor (limits on gun control) and the other two items relate to a second factor. What is interesting is that the two items that seem to relate to a second factor involve children and schools.  These are the items on providing the teachers with concealed weapons training and the school with an armed officer.   The results of the factor analysis seem to indicate that respondents think differently about guns when children and/or schools are involved.

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The opinion data indicate that Utahns oppose efforts to restrict access to the ownership and use of firearms.  However, those opinions do not extend as easily or naturally when taking schools and children into consideration.

Survey Methodology

Click here to download a topline report that includes the full survey questionnaire, frequencies for each question, and a detailed methodological report (including details about the sampling as well as response rates and cooperation rates).

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