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Suburban women want Congress to act on gun control, Republican poll finds

Suburban women were Republicans’ weak spot in the 2018 midterms. In some swing districts, they overwhelmingly want action on gun control.

Moms Demand Action hosted a Recess Rally and community...
Moms Demand Action hosts a Recess Rally and community gathering at in New York City to honor the victims of gun violence and to call upon lawmakers to take action.
Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Suburban women in some swing House districts overwhelmingly want tighter gun laws, a new poll conducted by a Republican firm has found. In fact, preventing gun violence has surpassed health care as the most important issue in the eyes of these women, including independents.

But in the wake of two recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Congress and President Donald Trump are showing few signs of taking action to pass even basic legislation to curb shootings, including a bipartisan universal background check bill that was the most popular measure among the women surveyed.

First reported by the Washington Post’s James Hohmann, the Public Opinion Strategies poll commissioned by the Republican Main Street Partnership surveyed 1,000 women in five congressional districts: Colorado’s Sixth, Kansas’s Third, North Carolina’s Ninth, Pennsylvania’s First, and Virginia’s 10th, some of which have been personally affected by high-profile gun violence. Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District, for example, is home to Aurora, where 12 people were killed by a shooter at a movie theater in 2012. It’s also close to Columbine High School, the site of the 1999 high school massacre.

The poll found a vast majority of the women surveyed want Congress to pass several gun control measures; in addition to the 90 percent who supported a universal background check bill, 76 percent of women polled also said they wanted Congress to ban the purchase and use of semi-automatic weapons like AK-47s and AR-15s.

Though these women’s priorities might change before November, 2020, none of this is good news for Republicans in battleground states and districts.

Suburban women were a force to be reckoned with in the 2018 midterms; they were a key constituency that turned on congressional Republicans and helped propel Democrats to their blue wave in the House. Republicans want to woo them back ahead of the 2020 presidential election, but continued inaction on gun control legislation could make that a tough sell to a group that wants results from Congress.

Suburban women are worried about gun violence, and they want Congress to do something

The women polled by Public Opinion Strategies supported a wide array of legislation to help curb gun violence beyond universal background checks. That bill had 90 support among all women polled and 85 percent support from women who identify as independents. Here are the other measures women supported:

  • A measure that would require a 48-hour waiting period between when someone buys a gun and when they are actually able to take possession of that gun. 88 percent of women and 89 percent of independent-leaning women supported this.
  • A measure known as a “red flag law,” which allows law enforcement to temporarily take possession of guns from someone who may present a danger, either to themselves or others. 84 percent of women and 85 percent of independent-leaning women supported this.
  • A measure banning the purchase and use of semi-automatic assault weapons like AK-47s and AR-15s. 76 percent of women and independents supported this.
  • A measure banning the sale and possession of high capacity or extended ammunition magazines, which allow some guns to shoot more than 10 bullets before the user reloads. 72 percent of women and 65 percent of independent-leaning women supported this.

A full 73 percent of women believed these proposals would make their communities safer. But even after more deaths in Dayton and El Paso, the prospects for even passing a universal background check — the most popular proposal among these women — isn’t looking good. Although Trump initially said he was confident he could get Republicans to support universal background check legislation after the shootings, he has seemingly backtracked. Trump chalked up the recent mass shootings to mental health at his most recent campaign rally, and this week he told reporters, “Just remember, we already have a lot of background checks.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not answered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call to bring the Senate back early from August recess to consider a universal background check bill the House already passed in February. McConnell has said dealing with background checks will be at the forefront of the Senate’s legislative agenda when they return to Capitol Hill, but he also hasn’t yet backed a specific piece of legislation.

Trump’s backtracking on the need for a universal background check bill could kill what little momentum there is; congressional Republicans in the past have been loathe to take up bills Trump doesn’t support.

On Monday, Pelosi again called on the Senate to take up the House’s bill straight away, rather than waiting until after recess.

“I pray that the President will listen to the 90 percent of the American people who support universal background checks,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Once again, I call upon the President to bring Senator McConnell back to Washington to immediately take up House-passed, bipartisan legislation to address this epidemic and to save lives.”

Trump is polling underwater with these women

None of this is likely to help Republicans looking to court suburban women in 2020. President Trump has long been in trouble with these voters, and it’s clear in the Public Opinion Strategies poll.

Just 35 percent of women in the districts polled approve of the job Trump is doing, while 61 percent disapprove (55 percent disapprove “strongly”). Trump is doing even worse among women who identify as independents; 32 percent approve of him while 63 percent disapprove.

These women also tend to favor the Democrat in their House district when polled on the generic ballot, which shows that public sentiment is still favoring Democrats, at least in these five swing districts.

Suburban women see Trump “literally as a crisis,” Republican pollster Christine Matthews told Vox’s Dylan Matthews after the 2018 midterms. “The Trump presidency is a crisis to democracy, our values, our morality. It is making women physically sick. That is the word they use all the time — the word is ‘nauseous.’”

As Scott wrote, suburban voters revolted against Republicans and Trump in 2018 over a number of concerns, including gun violence.

Some of it is certainly personal to Trump. But the president has infected the entire Republican Party. [Former Pennsylvania Rep. Ryan] Costello described these suburban voters in three words — “they want results” — and lamented that Republicans have mostly been immovable on issues like gun control and climate change.

Flash forward to 2019, and these voters still aren’t seeing a lot of results on these issues. It’s not for lack of trying on Democrats’ part, but McConnell has declared himself the “grim reaper” of Democratic legislation on Capitol Hill. The midterms were a warning sign for Republicans, but they aren’t showing many signs of changing their ways.

That could spell trouble for them in 2020.

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