Second Poll Shows Americans Oppose Assault Weapons Ban for First Time Ever

New York Times front page editorial continues to influence

December 16, 2015

A second national poll from a major media outlet in the past week has found a majority of Americans now oppose a ban on so-called assault weapons even after the New York Times published an editorial on its front page supporting it.

Fifty-three percent of respondents said they oppose a ban on assault weapons in an ABC/Washington Post poll released on Wednesday, an increase of more than 10 points since the last time the question was asked in 2013. Forty-five percent indicated they would support such a ban, a drop of 11 points in the same time period. The poll of 1,002 adults, conducted between December 10 and 13, has been asking the assault weapons ban question since 1994, when 80 percent of respondents supported a ban while only 18 percent said they opposed it.

The results closely mirror a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last Thursday which found, for the first time ever, a majority of Americans oppose an assault weapons ban. That poll, of 1,275 adults, found 50 percent opposed a ban while 44 percent supported it.

Such a ban would outlaw the AR-15, America's most popular rifle, as well as other similar guns. In the days before polling on the subject was completely the New York Times ran a front-page editorial in support of a ban. It was the first editorial to be run on the front page of the paper since 1920.

"Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition, must be outlawed for civilian ownership," the editorial said. "It is possible to define those guns in a clear and effective way and, yes, it would require Americans who own those kinds of weapons to give them up for the good of their fellow citizens."

Their previous front page editorial, critiquing then-Republican presidential nominee Warren G. Harding, had a similar effect on public opinion. Harding won the election of 1920 with 37 of 48 states and 404 of 531 electoral votes.