And there is, of course, a rational reason for this — even according to the Department of Justice, gun violence has dropped by 39% over the last twenty years. Despite the media attention that gets fixed on gun crimes such as Sandy Hook and Aurora (but curiously not in Chicago, home of the nation’s strictest gun-control laws), the truth is that violence of all kind has been declining over the last generation, and rapidly so in terms of gun crime. Even if people don’t seem to be acutely aware of the statistics, the lack of prioritization of gun violence over other issues in previous polling makes a great deal of sense, media hysteria notwithstanding.
Some objected to previous issues polling, especially by Gallup, with the complaint that asking about the single most pressing issue skewed the results (gun issues garnered no more than 4-6% over the last six months) and didn’t account for multi-issue activism. Gallup addresses that in a new poll on issues prioritization by asking respondents to prioritize an entire list of issues rather than just choose one. Guess which one ended up on the bottom?
Americans put reforming immigration and reducing gun violence — the focus of much of the attention on Capitol Hill in recent weeks — at the bottom of a list of 12 priorities for Congress and the president to address. Americans instead say leaders in Washington should give highest priority to jobs and the economy, followed by making government work more efficiently and improving the quality of education.
Democrats put a much higher priority on the issue, but even then it scores almost at the bottom of their concerns relative to all the others:
But Democrats and Republicans give vastly different ratings to two issues — access to healthcare and reducing gun violence. Democrats are more than 30 points more likely than Republicans to say improving access to healthcare and reducing gun violence should be top or high priorities for Congress and the president. The differences in views of healthcare may reflect the highly politicized nature of the Affordable Care Act, and the divergent perspectives on gun violence underscore that this issue has taken on significant political overtones.
That analysis is actually a little misleading, although not intentionally so. Gun violence does score higher as a priority among Democrats, but at 73% it comes in fourth to last. Only “reducing the federal deficit” (61%), “reforming the tax code” (57%), and “reforming immigration” (44%) fall below it.
Wait — immigration reform? The other big project of the White House and Congress only interests 44% of Democrats? Heck, 55% of Republicans consider that a priority. Speaking of Republicans, “reducing gun violence” only gets 40% and comes in last — and it comes in last among independents, too, at 50%.
So why are the two biggest initiatives this year for Democrats — immigration and gun control — two of the lowest priorities for Americans, and two of the lowest priorities among members of their own party? One could not ask for a better demonstration of being out of touch than these results.