Center for American Progress Action

RELEASE: New Polling Shows Vast NRA Spending Had No Effect on Election Outcomes, Voters Continue to Favor Stronger Gun Laws
Press Release

RELEASE: New Polling Shows Vast NRA Spending Had No Effect on Election Outcomes, Voters Continue to Favor Stronger Gun Laws

$12 Million in National Rifle Association Spending Could Not Overcome Voter Support for Common-Sense Gun Reforms in Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia

Download the poll results.

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for America Progress Action Fund released the findings of a new bipartisan poll by Mayors Against Illegal Guns that shows that despite pumping nearly $12 million into the election, the gun lobby failed to make an impact in swing states like Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia.

“Voter support of gun control laws is an under-recognized reality that ought to shape the legislative agenda of the coming years. The constituents have spoken—and the time for common-sense gun control laws is now,” said Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President of External Affairs at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The poll, conducted by Republican polling firm Chesapeake Beach Consulting and Democratic polling firm Momentum Analysis, found that the National Rifle Association did not see a return on their investment in this election because voters in Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia reject the NRA’s agenda and trust President Barack Obama to enact the gun law reforms they strongly support.

The poll’s key findings include:

  • More voters trust President Obama on guns. Voters in Virginia trusted President Obama over Republican presidential candidate and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on gun laws by a nine-point margin. The same was true in North Carolina and Colorado, although President Obama’s advantage fell within each poll’s margin of error.
  • Voters strongly support gun law reforms. Wide majorities of voters in all three states, including in gun-owning households, favor a range of gun law reforms now being considered by Congress and state legislatures. As Mayors Against Illegal Guns found previously in research by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, voters overwhelmingly support requiring background checks on all gun sales and support barring sex offenders and individuals with domestic violence arrests from carrying concealed guns across state lines. Majorities also oppose the NRA’s top federal legislative priority—national reciprocity for concealed carry permits—which would allow people to enter any state with a concealed, loaded gun even if they fail to meet local permitting requirements.
  • Voters want President Obama to prioritize gun law reforms. While not the primary vote driver, gun policy is a factor for a majority of voters in all three states, with large majorities saying that it should be at least a “somewhat important” priority for President Obama’s second term. Democrats in Virginia and Colorado were more likely than others in their state to call for reform, while independents in North Carolina are most supportive of making gun law reform a priority.

“Elected officials know we need stronger gun laws, and they’ll tell you so privately. But they run scared from the perceived power of the gun lobby,” said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. “This election added more data to the pile of evidence that the mythology that the NRA wields extraordinary power has almost no basis in fact.”

This poll is not the only postelection analysis to find that the NRA’s spending this election season was ineffective. The Sunlight Foundation, a campaign finance watchdog organization, found that the NRA’s return on investment in their 2012 general election campaign spending was less than 1 percent, giving the NRA the worst track record of all major political committees and organizations. Media Matters also found that in six of seven U.S. Senate races where the NRA spent more than $100,000, the lobby’s favored candidate lost.

The latest research further debunks the idea that the NRA can make or break electoral victories. As Paul Waldman, contributing editor at The American Prospect, revealed in a recent ThinkProgress blog series, ineffective NRA spending has virtually no impact on the outcome of congressional races, and NRA independent expenditure campaigns do not improve a candidate’s chance of winning. Waldman additionally found that the NRA’s endorsements are overrated, as they have almost no impact on the outcome of elections because the bulk of NRA endorsements go to incumbent Republicans with almost no chance of losing.

Download the poll results.

Listen an audio recording of the press call on which the poll results were released.

Related resources:


Poll methodology

This memo is based on findings from three surveys conducted in Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia, November 7-8, 2012. Five hundred telephone interviews were conducted in each state, using a voter file of registered voters, with voters screened for actually having voted in the 2012 presidential general election. The margin of error for each survey is +/-4.4 percent, with the margin of error larger for subgroups. The surveys were conducted by the bipartisan polling team of Momentum Analysis and Chesapeake Beach Consulting.

 About Momentum Analysis

Momentum Analysis is a Washington, D.C.-based polling firm serving Democratic candidates and progressive organizations. Its clients include the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, EMILY’s List, and candidates for office from City Council to U.S. Senate. In 2012 the firm’s bipartisan work on Walmart moms defined and described that swing voting bloc. President Margie Omero is also a Huffington Post/ blogger.

About Chesapeake Beach Consulting

Chesapeake Beach Consulting is a full-service research, political consulting, and strategy consulting firm. President Bob Carpenter has nearly 40 years of political experience, having worked for state legislatures, political parties, campaigns, and most recently, as vice president of American Viewpoint for 18 years. American Viewpoint is a Republican public opinion research firm that advised McCain-Palin in 2008 and Bush-Cheney in 2004.