According to a poll published on April 29, five senators — including four Republicans — who voted against the Manchin/Toomey compromise background check bill on April 17 could face a backlash by voters back in their home states in 2014 elections.
Public Policy Polling, a Democrat-leaning consulting firm based in Raleigh, N.C., surveyed constituents of five senators who opposed the measure: Republicans Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Dean Heller of Nevada, and Democrat Mark Begich of Alaska.
The PPP says its surveys found 60 to 72 percent public support in each state for expanding background checks to require them in sales at gun shows and on the Internet.
In Arizona, according to the PPP, 52 percent of respondents said they are now “less likely” to support Flake for re-election with a disapproval rating of 51 percent.
In Alaska, the PPP poll placed Begich’s and Murkowski’s approval ratings at just 41 percent and 46 percent, respectively. The PPP says 39 percent of respondents said they are now “less likely” to vote for Begich for reelection, and the same number said they are “less likely” to vote for Murkowski.
In Ohio, the PPP poll said Portman has an approval rating of 26 percent, with 36 percent saying they are “less likely” to support him for a second term.
In Nevada, according to the PPP poll, Heller has an approval rating of 44 percent with 46 percent saying they were “less likely” to back him for reelection.
But political analysts point out that the poll is rife with flaws. Dan Friedman writes in the New York Daily News on April 30 that PPP is widely regarded as unreliable because it is uber-liberal and relies exclusively on automated calls.
“The group’s findings could be right, but they aren’t the whole story,” Friedman writes, noting gun control advocates “endlessly cite polls showing near 90 percent of Americans support strengthening background checks as if this means the same voters supported the defeated deal on background checks.”
Just because 90 percent of polled Americans support better background checks doesn’t mean 90 percent of Americans favored the Manchin/Toomey bill, Friedman says.
“Almost everyone supports better background checks in the abstract,” he writes. “But put it in an actual bill with language to attack and lie about, with a divisive president behind it, and support falls fast.”
A more reliable poll, according to Friedman, is the Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll published on April 22 that showed 47 percent of voters said they were “angry” or “disappointed” gun control legislation failed, while 39 percent were “relieved” or “happy” by the result.
“The 90 percent figure also ignores an intensity gap favoring gun rights advocates over gun control backers,” he writes. “If disputed, it is real enough for politicians who act on the belief that gun rights voters are much more likely to vote on the issue than gun control backers.”
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— Senate foes of gun bill suffer in polls