The Washington Times - May 10, 2013, 01:52PM

A new poll shows that three-quarters of New Hampshire voters support expanding background checks for gun purchasers and that the unfavorable rating of GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who voted against a recent background-check measure, is on the rise.

The poll from the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College found that 76 percent of the 433 registered voters surveyed support universal background checks for the purchase of firearms in New Hampshire.

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The poll, which has a 4.7 plus or minus margin of error, also found that 54 percent of the self-identified conservatives also supported universal background checks.

Mrs. Ayotte, meanwhile, has seen her unfavorable rating climb after voting against a proposal last month to expand background checks.

The proposal died in the Senate on a 54 to 46 vote.

Five Democrats voted against the proposal, including Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, who did so for procedural purposes that will allow him to bring up the bill again. Four Republicans, meanwhile, supported it.

“Senate Ayotte’s favorability rating remained steady (36.2 in 2012 and 36.7 in 2013), but the senator’s unfavorable ratings rose more dramatically from 24 percent to 31 percent,” the poll found.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) is targeting Mrs. Ayotte in negative television ads that refer to another poll that shows that 89 percent of likely New Hampshire voters support background checks.

“A Democrat and a Republican come out with a tough on crime background check bill that keeps guns away from criminals while protecting the Second Amendment — but Ayotte votes no,” the narrator says in the 30-second spot.

Mrs. Ayotte has pushed back, saying that she supports background checks. She wrote this week that in a local online publication that she believed that Congress should not expand “the broken background check system” because it is clear that “criminals who attempt to illegally purchase firearms aren’t being prosecuted as they should be.”

“The focus should be on fixing the existing system, which criminals are flouting. We need to make sure we are enforcing current law and prosecuting those who attempt to illegally obtain firearms,” she wrote.