Following Saturday’s mass shooting in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, N.Y., that authorities say was racially motivated, a new Morning Consult survey shows most voters continue to support stricter gun-control measures, though that level of backing has declined since President Joe Biden took office last year.
What’s more, the level of anxiety over white nationalism and the threat it poses to the country — though ample — also has not returned to the heights hit in late 2019 after a similar shooting in El Paso, Texas.
Most Republicans See 'White Replacement' as More Concerning Than Mass Violence by White Supremacists
Where voters stand on white supremacy
Authorities identified Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old white man, as the shooter who killed 10 people — mostly Black — at the Tops grocery store. He’s believed to have been acting on a white supremacist ideology known as the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which claims that Western elites are seeking to weaken whites’ power by replacing them with people of color.
Once on the fringe of American political discourse, the theory has been embraced by Republican influencers such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance of Ohio and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), and that messaging has filtered downward to the party’s voters, despite just 22 percent saying in the survey that they’d heard of the term.
According to the Monday survey, 3 in 5 Republican voters say they are more worried that politicians and government officials are using U.S. immigration policy to try to lessen the influence white Americans have on the country's economics, politics and culture than they are about mass violence committed in the United States by white supremacists.
Most Democrats (78%) and a plurality of independents (47%) identified racist mass violence as more concerning.
The white supremacist ideology has been blamed for a wave of violence in recent years, including the 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. The latest brutality has prompted a recent uptick in concerns about white nationalism.
After Buffalo, 2 in 5 Voters See White Nationalism as a Critical Threat to the U.S.
Forty percent of voters — including 2 in 3 Democrats, over a third of independents and 16% of Republicans — say white nationalism represents “a critical threat” to the vital interests of the United States in the next 10 years. The figures are similar to a Morning Consult survey conducted after the January 2021 attack on the Capitol that included supporters of then-President Donald Trump aligned with the racist ideology, but are still several percentage points below the 47% who reported that threat level after the El Paso shooting
How voters Washington want to respond to Buffalo
Despite the division gun-control measures cause on Capitol Hill, they are popular with voters — especially in the aftermath of high-profile mass shootings like over the weekend in Buffalo.
Voters are nearly twice as likely to support stricter gun control laws in the United States as they are to oppose them, 60% to 32%. Those in favor of tougher gun control laws include 86% of Democrats, 56% of independents and 37% of Republicans.
Support for Stricter Gun Measures Ticks Down in Biden's First Term
As was the case earlier in Biden’s presidency — and during the tenure of the last Democratic president, Barack Obama — support for stricter gun control laws is weaker now than after mass shootings when Trump was in office, driven largely by weaker backing among Republican voters.
Given the narrowly divided House and the evenly split Senate, Democratic leaders have conceded that federal action on gun control is unlikely despite two-thirds support among the electorate for bans on assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, both of which authorities say Gendron used in Buffalo.
In the face of that inaction on Capitol Hill, many Democrats have taken to lambasting the normalization of racist ideologies that are believed to have fueled the shooter, the combatting of which many voters say should be prioritized to prevent future violence.
Fighting Spread of Racist Ideology Is Important to Stop Mass Shootings, 3 in 4 Voters Say
Three in 4 voters said combating the spread of racist ideologies and beliefs should be a priority for curbing future massacres, more than the 67% who said the same of enacting stricter gun control laws. The majority of voters of all political stripes said stricter enforcement of existing gun control laws should be prioritized, while there was near unanimity on the importance of better mental health screening and support.
That’s likely driven by the fact that 4 in 5 voters believe mental illness is to blame for mass shootings, far more than the 42% who point their finger to the National Rifle Association, which fights gun control measures, or the 37% who blamed Fox News, which hosts Carlson’s program and a range of conservative characters who have promoted the ideology believed to be behind the Buffalo shooter.