Americans now believe that access to guns is the greatest threat to public health. Where does that leave Republicans and their unpopular positions on gun control?
Listen To This Story
Following a series of high-profile mass shootings, Americans now believe that “access to guns or firearms” is the No. 1 threat to public health. The issue has replaced “opioids and fentanyl” as the greatest concern, according to the latest Axios-Ipsos American Health Index released this morning.
Overall, 26 percent of Americans felt that the unrestricted availability of weapons is the main public health threat — an increase of 9 percent since February. That is slightly more than the number of Americans who believe that the opioid pandemic is the worst problem.
That shift in public sentiment spells trouble for Republicans — especially if the concern over access to guns motivates Americans to vote.
Even in a country deeply divided on many issues, gun control measures are popular. However, blocking them from becoming law — and even expanding access to firearms — is one of the GOP’s top priorities.
In addition, while many Americans do not understand the complexity of some problems or who is responsible for them, when it comes to gun control, it is very clear which side is to blame for political inaction.
Conversely, for example, Republicans are trying to make the opioids crisis about border security, hoping that this will give them an edge.
Therefore, they want Americans to care about the latter but not the former. The new poll, however, indicates that this isn’t the case.
That could create additional political headwinds for the GOP.
A similar dynamic has been playing out since the Supreme Court paved the way for states to pass anti-abortion legislation last year.
Republicans immediately rushed to enact draconian laws across the country. While the resulting abortion bans have been popular with a segment of their base, GOP candidates have been paying a price for them at the ballot box.
If the current gun violence crisis has a similar effect, Republicans running in swing districts and competitive states could find themselves in real trouble because they will have to defend two very unpopular positions that their party has taken.
Another finding of the poll will likely add to the GOP’s headaches.
A vast majority of all Americans (77 percent), including three-quarters of Republicans, are opposed to reducing Medicare and Social Security spending to lower the federal deficit. However, reining in “entitlement spending” is another priority of GOP lawmakers in Washington.
One positive for Republicans coming out of the poll is that most Americans (63 percent) support requiring Medicaid beneficiaries and recipients of “food stamps” to provide proof of work to receive these benefits.
That is an issue the GOP wants to make part of a deal on a debt ceiling increase.