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Poll: 39 percent 'relieved' or 'very happy' about defeat of gun background-check legislation

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A new survey shows that nearly half of adults are angry or disappointed about the Senate’s failure to pass a measure that would have expanded gun-purchase background checks, but 39 percent are “relieved” or “very happy.”

Public polls have shown that about nine in 10 people support universal or near-universal background checks on gun purchases, but of those watching the vote “very closely,” sentiments are evenly divided — 48 percent angry/disappointed and 47 percent relieved/happy — in a Washington Post-Pew Research poll released Wednesday.

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Nor surprisingly, the numbers cut sharply across party lines. Twenty-two percent of Democrats are happy or relieved, compared with 67 percent who are disappointed or angry, while 51 percent of Republicans are happy or relieved and 34 percent disappointed or angry. A plurality of independents — 48 percent to 41 percent — are happy/relieved.

But the numbers illustrate a key distinction between the Obama administration’s claims that an overwhelming majority of voters demanded that Congress pass background-check legislation and public polling that showed a majority of voters did favor stricter gun controls post-Newtown (though those numbers dipped below 50 percent in a USA Today survey released this week), but which didn’t necessarily outline a specific “enthusiasm gap” between gun-control and gun-rights supporters.

For example, while December’s school shooting rampage helped catalyze a push for new laws from gun-control advocacy groups, that push, in turn, awakened vociferous gun-rights advocates as well, notably the National Rifle Association. Of those polled who felt most passionately about the issue, 20 percent say they’re “very happy,” while 15 percent are “angry.” Nineteen percent are relieved, and about a third are disappointed.

The Pew-Post poll of 1,002 adults was taken April 18-21 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.


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