The backfire from Barack Obama’s attempt to push gun control in the wake of a terrorist attack is now undeniable. Last week, the New York Times/CBS poll found a majority opposed to renewing an “assault weapons” ban for the first time in its 20 years of polling on the issue. Today, the Washington Post/ABC poll comes up with its own series first on the question:
A majority of Americans oppose banning assault weapons for the first time in more than 20 years of ABC News/Washington Post polls, with the public expressing vast doubt that the authorities can prevent “lone wolf” terrorist attacks and a substantial sense that armed citizens can help.
Just 45 percent in this national survey favor an assault weapons ban, down 11 percentage points from an ABC/Post poll in 2013 and down from a peak of 80 percent in 1994. Fifty-three percent oppose such a ban, the most on record.
Indeed, while the division is a close one, Americans by 47-42 percent think that encouraging more people to carry guns legally is a better response to terrorism than enacting stricter gun control laws.
Ouch. That was in fact the opposite argument made by Barack Obama in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack that left 14 dead and two dozen wounded. In fact, when responsible gun owners (and a few law-enforcement leaders) suggested that preparing for self-defense might be a wise idea in an age of small-scale terrorism, Obama and his allies scoffed at the argument as irrational. Clearly, that argument and the attempt to exploit a terror attack to disarm law-abiding citizens has flopped. And when I write “flopped,” this is what I mean:
This is a “broad-based trend,” according to the pollster:
The increase in opposition to banning assault weapons since 2013 peaks in some groups – up 18 points among strong conservatives, 17 points among higher-income earners and 16 points in the generally more liberal Northeast. But it’s a broadly based trend. Many groups have moved from majority support for an assault weapons ban two years ago to majority opposition now: whites, 30- to 64-year-olds, suburbanites, political independents, moderates, residents of the West and Midwest, anyone without a post-graduate degree and those in $100,000-plus households.
So who does still support the ban? The usual progressive demographics, naturally:
These trends leave just seven basic demographic groups in which majorities still support banning assault weapons: women, Northeasterners, seniors, post-graduates, liberals, Democrats and blacks.
Perhaps the fact that California actually does ban so-called “assault weapons” might account for the lack of confidence in the idea of reinstating it nationwide. In actuality, nothing proposed by Obama and his allies in the wake of the San Bernardino terror attack would have had any impact on it at all. California not only bans “assault weapons,” but makes it exceedingly difficult for responsible Californians to use firearms in self-defense outside the home at all. That didn’t keep Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik from massacring them. Neither did the overweening scrupulosity from the Obama administration about vetting social-media postings in the visa process, and neither did Obama’s post-attack scolding about not being mean to Muslims.
It’s that lack of connection to reality that has Americans less confident in the government’s ability to prevent terror attacks — and in the case of “lone wolf” attacks (although that’s not what San Bernardino was), respondents are much less confident:
There’s lopsided agreement on another concern: Just 22 percent express confidence in the government’s ability to prevent lone-wolf terrorist attacks, with 77 percent skeptical about it. Confidence in the government’s ability to stop a large-scale organized terrorist attack is much higher, albeit still well short of a majority – 43 percent.
Not surprisingly under these circumstances, Barack Obama gets his worst job approval ratings in fourteen months for this series, 45/51. On handling terrorism, Obama gets a 43/53, a slight improvement from last month but among the worst ratings he’s gotten since his first term. He also gets a 35/59 on handling ISIS, about identical to last month’s 35/57. There is little evidence of confidence in Obama’s performance across the board in this poll, and little reason to expect to see any.