04/05/2007 - Public opinion surveys taken before the Virginia Tech shootings, showed that over time Americans had become less disposed to support gun control measures than they were in the years surrounding the Columbine school shootings in 1999.
For example, Americans have a better opinion of the National Rifle Association these days than they did in the mid 1990's. Over this same period, public calls for stricter gun-control laws have also quieted somewhat. A recent Pew nationwide survey found a 52%-to-32% majority of respondents holding a favorable opinion of the NRA, which will hold its massive annual convention on April 13-15 this year in St. Louis. While this is the first time since 1994 that the favorability rating of the group has crossed the 50% mark, positive views of the NRA have been inching upward in Pew polls in recent years.
Opinions of the NRA have improved among most demographic and political groups, but the anti-gun control advocacy organization has made its greatest gains among its traditional constituencies - men, whites and Republicans. Favorable views of the NRA among men, for example, jumped 11 percentage points, from 51% in 1995 to 62% in 2007. By contrast, favorable views among women stand at 42%, little changed from the 1995 level. And, while favorability rose 8 points among whites between 1995 and 2007, favorable views among blacks were essentially unchanged.
Republicans, who held the most favorable view of the NRA in 1995, not only continue to hold the most favorable view in 2007 (72% favorable), but also registered the largest gain in the number holding favorable views of the group -- a 20-percentage point increase. Among Democrats, the increase in positive opinions was very modest. As a result, the gap between the attitudes of Republicans and Democrats toward the NRA grew much wider. In 1995, the gap measured 16-percentage points; by 2007 it had doubled to 32 points.
Read the full article The NRA's Image Improves as Support for Gun Control Slips on the Pew Research Center Web site.