The FINANCIAL — Despite a year of blistering criticism from gun control advocates about the National Rifle Association’s hard-line stance against gun restrictions amid a spate of mass shootings nationwide, 58% in the U.S. have a favorable opinion of the NRA.
In a year plagued with mass shootings, including a recent tragedy at a community college in Oregon, there has been a national debate as to whether the NRA, with its ardent support for gun rights, is somehow complicit in these shootings. For example, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has blamed the NRA for stifling the movement toward gun control. More broadly, some commentators in the news media and on social media have criticized the NRA for its theory that “a good guy with a gun” may stop “a bad guy with a gun” in mass shootings.
Yet in a Gallup poll from Oct. 7-11, a solid majority of Americans (58%) say they have an overall favorable impression of the NRA. This includes the highest recording of “very favorable” opinions (26%) since Gallup began asking this question in 1989. In December 2012, soon after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, 54% of Americans had a favorable impression of the NRA. The highest percentage in Gallup’s 26-year trend was in 2005, when 60% of Americans viewed the organization favorably.
The lowest favorability rating was in June 1995, when 42% viewed the NRA favorably, at a time when the NRA sent out a fundraising letter calling federal law enforcement agents “jack-booted government thugs” in the wake of the Waco siege in 1993. This low favorability toward the NRA in 1995 was only compounded with the Oklahoma City bombing that spring, one month after the letter was sent to potential donors. This dispute resulted in former President George H.W. Bush publicly resigning from his lifetime membership in the NRA.
Conservative-Liberal Divide Stark in Favorable Impressions of NRA
While Americans overall view the NRA favorably, the favorable-unfavorable divide is pronounced among political ideologies. Among conservatives, 77% have an overall favorable impression of the NRA, contrasted with 30% of liberals. For conservatives this includes 41% who say they have a “very favorable” impression of the group. Ten percent of liberals share the same very favorable impression, with 45% saying that they have a “very unfavorable” opinion of the NRA.
Gun Owners Solidly Support the NRA, Non-Gun Owners Mixed
There is also a divide in support for the NRA among those who are gun owners and those who personally do not own a gun. Among gun owners, 78% have an overall favorable opinion of the NRA, while only 20% have an unfavorable opinion. The results are more mixed when examining non-gun owners. Forty-nine percent have a favorable opinion of the group, while 42% view it unfavorably. In the U.S., 28% say they personally own a gun.
The gun safety organization has been a political advocate for gun rights, lobbying on behalf of particular legislative bills and candidates who support the Second Amendment nationwide, while lobbying against most restrictions on gun ownership. It has also stoked controversy by suggesting that more Americans should be armed in public places, and that guns are not to blame for mass shootings. In short, they believe that gun rights generally should not be restricted. Gallup’s survey shows that, even after shootings nationwide, Americans overall still have a favorable opinion of the NRA, as they typically have, suggesting that the public may not be specifically blaming the organization for the crimes of those who commit mass shootings.