The conventional wisdom says Americans are highly divided over gun rights and gun control. But is it true? Recent data from the 2019 Kansas Speaks poll suggests that there is a political center on this issue after all.
Political scientists have argued for years that Americans are not as divided as portrayed in the news media. In the book Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America, Morris Fiorina and colleagues found that most Americans staked out centrist positions even on supposedly-divisive issues like abortion rights. The perception that the country is deeply divided on this and other issues comes not from rank and file voters, but rather from political activists. It is the latter group who are highly polarized. The activists are more likely to be frequent voters. They also cast many of the votes in party primary elections, participate in caucus meetings, donate money, and volunteer time to candidates, all helping to reinforce the idea that their sharp divisions mirror the nation. Among other voters, survey results show that most believe abortion should be legal, but with certain restrictions. These include a ban on late-term abortions except under extenuating circumstances, no use of federal funding, and parental consent for minors. Earlier Kansas Speaks surveys have shown similar results for Kansas.
This year, a similar pattern appears in responses to questions about guns. A majority of the poll respondents appear highly receptive to laws restricting who can buy guns, but much less supportive regarding bans on which guns, ammunition, and accessories can be sold.