FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. _ Public support for banning assault weapons _ an idea that had sky-high support from Florida voters immediately after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre _ has declined.

Banning assault-style weapons, such as the AR-15 used in the Feb. 14 shooting at the Parkland high school, is still favored by many Floridians.

But polling from Florida Atlantic University shows that support isn’t nearly as strong now as it was in the days following the killing of 17 people and wounding of 17 others at the school.

Support was 46 percentage points higher than opposition in February. It declined to 21 percentage points in September.

FAU’s September poll found 51 percent of the state’s voters support a ban on assault weapons and 30 percent are opposed.

FAU’s late-February poll found 69 percent supported for a ban and 23 percent opposed it.

Support for a ban has declined in every demographic slice of the population: men, women, Democrats, Republicans, independents, people who approve of President Donald Trump’s performance and people who disapprove of the president.

Opposition to an assault-weapons ban has increased in each of those groups.

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Kevin Wagner, an FAU political scientist and research fellow at the university’s Business and Economics Polling Initiative, said the decline is notable.

He said other news has supplanted the shooting in the minds of many people, which also means there aren’t as many people thinking about proposals to deal with gun violence.

“The issue is not as prominent compared to other issues at this point,” Wagner said. “After a tragedy, the issue of gun violence becomes sort of paramount. When you move farther from that, they’re replaced by other issues that may seem more important to them.”

In South Florida, many people and organizations mobilized to push for gun controls after the Parkland massacre, and they achieved some success in the 2018 state legislative session.

Others pushed voter registration _ especially among young people _ and family members became active on both sides of the issue. National gun-control organizations also stepped up their activities in advance of the midterm elections.

One challenge, Wagner said, was to keep the issue in the forefront of voters’ minds. “There’s some evidence that they haven’t been as successful as they hoped,” he said.

As attention to the issue has faded, the share of people who are undecided or have no opinion on the idea of an assault-weapons ban has more than doubled. In September, 19 percent were undecided. In February, 8 percent had no opinion.

Key differences

_Men: September: 49 percent support, 36 percent oppose. February: 66 percent support, 28 percent oppose.

_Women: September: 52 percent support, 25 percent oppose. February: 72 percent support, 18 percent oppose.

_Democrats: September: 65 percent support, 20 percent oppose. February: 82 percent support, 13 percent oppose.

_Republicans: September: 39 percent support, 41 percent oppose. February: 57 percent support, 35 percent oppose.

_Independents: September: 47 percent support, 29 percent oppose. February: 68 percent support, 21 percent oppose.

_People who approve of Trump performance: September: 35 percent support, 46 percent oppose. February: 49 percent support, 43 percent oppose.

_People who disapprove of Trump performance: September: 69 percent support, 19 percent oppose. February: 87 percent support, 9 percent oppose.

_Age 55-74: September: 56 percent support, 27 percent oppose. February: 76 percent support, 20 percent oppose. (The numbers of respondents for other age breakdowns aren’t large enough to make meaningful comparisons.)

_White voters: September 54 percent support, 30 percent oppose. February: 73 percent support, 20 percent oppose. (The sample sizes for black, Hispanic and Asian voters aren’t large enough to make meaningful comparisons.)

Fine print

For the September poll, the FAU Business and Economics Polling Initiative surveyed 850 Florida likely voters online and through automated calls to people with landline telephones from Sept. 13 through Sept. 16. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

For the February poll, 800 Florida voters were surveyed from Feb. 23 through Feb. 23. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Breakdowns for smaller groups, such as men, women, Democrats and Republicans, have higher margins of error.


(c)2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.

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