Voters say they want gun control. Their votes say something different.

When voters in four Democratic-leaning states got the opportunity to enact expanded gun background checks into law, the overwhelming support suggested by national surveys was nowhere to be found. Instead, the initiative and referendum results in Maine, California, Washington and Nevada were nearly identical to those of the 2016 presidential election, all the way down to the result of individual counties.

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Hillary Clinton fared better at the ballot box than expanded background checks in the same states, most on the same day among the same voters.

The usual theories for America’s conservative gun politics do not explain the poor showings. The supporters of the initiatives outspent the all-powerful gun lobby. All manner of voters, not just single-issue voters or politicians, got an equal say. The Senate was not to blame; indeed, the results suggested that a national referendum on background checks would have lost. And while the question on every ballot was different and each campaign fought differently as well, the final results were largely indistinguishable from one another.

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