Poll: Majority of Tennesseans more likely to vote for candidate supporting background checks

    A customer at ABQ Guns in Albuquerque. Recent mass shootings have reignited the debate over gun legislation, including red flag laws and expanded background checks. (Photo by Sergio Flores/Bloomberg, Getty Images)
    A customer at ABQ Guns in Albuquerque. Recent mass shootings have reignited the debate over gun legislation, including red flag laws and expanded background checks. (Photo by Sergio Flores/Bloomberg, Getty Images)

    A poll just out from former Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords’s gun violence prevention organizations shows eight out of 10 Tennesseans polled approve of background checks before a buyer can purchase a weapon while support for President Donald Trump is still over 50%.

    Public Policy Polling (PPP) conducted the survey on behalf of Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence July 9-10 with a sample size of 833 registered voters. 

    The poll release is timed to coincide with a virtual tour, called “Road to Universal Background Checks,”  Giffords is doing in states with competitive U.S. Senate races. Giffords has endorsed Democratic candidate James Mackler and the two will hold a virtual event Wednesday. 

    Former Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords. (Photo: Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence)
    Former Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords. (Photo: Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence)

    Giffords has endorsed Mackler in the Senate race. 

    “We had known anecdotally but the data bears out that a majority of voters support background checks,” said Joanna Belanger, political director for the Giffords organization. “Republican candidates and incumbents are out of step with the majority.”

    Belanger said she and other proponents of background checks and safe gun laws have seen an evolution of thought over the last several years. 

    “A decade ago, Republican voters were coming out to vote in support of the Second Amendment but the last four or five years we’ve seen a huge shift,” she said, attributing a portion of the movement to school shootings including the 2018 shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 

    The Tennessee poll reached 56% of respondents who said they voted for Trump in 2016 while 35% voted for Hillary Clinton and 9% said they voted for a third party candidate or didn’t vote. 

    Of those, 47% of Trump voters said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports background checks while 79% of Clinton voters said they would, creating a base of 60%.

    Of the sample, 52% said they approve of the job Trump is doing but 27% said they are unsure where Trump stands on background checks. 

    “There’s an education gap that we see,” said Belanger. “People are voting on background checks but they don’t know where Trump stands.”  

    In 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan House Resolution 8 which would have required background checks on all firearm sales. The Senate did not schedule a vote. 

    “Before we can see meaningful legislation, we need to flip the Senate,” said Belanger. 

    Of the Republican primary between Bill Hagerty and Dr. Manny Sethi, Belanger said both are in lockstep with the National Rifle Association (NRA.)

    Giffords became active in gun violence prevention after she was shot in the head during an attempted assassination at a 2011 campaign event in Tucson. Her husband, Mark Kelly, is running for the U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Martha McSally. Belanger said the organization is not polling or doing events in Arizona. 

    Giffords and Mackler will be joined at the Wednesday event by Shaundelle Brooks of Nashville, mother of Akilah DaSilva, who was killed during the 2018 Waffle House shooting in Antioch, and Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Giffords Law Center. Those interested in the Wednesday event can get information here.