Gun control matters more than abortion in Election 2000, say women voters
By Caroline Grannan
Many more women choose gun control over abortion as a key issue in deciding who they will vote for in this year's presidential race, reveals a Gallup Organization survey taken for Women.com.
Results of the national
Gallup telephone survey also exposed a gaping gender gap on gun control. While a majority among both sexes continue to think laws governing firearms sales should be stricter, an overwhelming 72 percent of women want to tighten laws, compared with a more modest 52 percent of men. The gender gap loomed again in questions about toy guns, in which an eye-catching majority of women advocate cracking down on the use of toy guns among children, in strong contrast to men surveyed.
Asked whether they would or did let their kids play with toy guns, 62 percent of women said no, compared with 40 percent of men. Both sexes favor laws banning toy guns designed to look like real guns, particularly women, with 76 percent approving the ban. Among men, 63 percent support the ban.
Eight percent of men, wanted gun laws to be made less strict, compared with 2 percent of women, while 39 percent of men and 24 percent of women thought laws should be kept as they are now.
Both women and men deemed gun control a
more important issue than abortion by significant margins in the May 2000 telephone survey of 1,031 adults nationwide. When asked whether a candidate's position on gun control or abortion is likely to be more important in determining their votes for president this year, 51 percent of women picked gun control vs. 31 percent who cited abortion. The margin among men was wider - 55 percent for gun control versus 24 percent for abortion.
"The gender gap on gun issues is very consistent in polls," observed Million Mom March spokeswoman Beth Kotkin in response to the survey results. "There's something about our culture that creates a strong association between guns and masculinity."
John Velleco, spokesman for the organization Gun Owners of America, offered a similar interpretation of the gender gap: "Women, on the whole, are less familiar with guns.
"I think women have been lied to," he added. "They've been fed this line that if we support gun control it's going to make their kids safer. But background checks and restrictions on private sales aren't going to make kids any safer. Trigger locks will place kids in greater danger when the mother who needs to protect herself and her family doesn't have access to her gun."
Despite the strong opinions, very few survey respondents had any personal experience with firearms used in a criminal situation. Nine percent of men and 5 percent of women reported having brandished or fired a gun in self-defense outside military combat. Eighteen percent of men and 10 percent of women had been threatened with a gun in a criminal situation.
The survey asked respondents to indicate how far they want the next president to go in strengthening gun laws in a series of questions ranging from new gun-control legislation, to enforcement of current laws, or some combination of both. Respondents could choose all of the above, and a majority of women did so: 66 percent advocate new laws, 57 percent want stricter enforcement of existing laws. Only half the men surveyed favored new laws, while 60 percent preferred stronger enforcement of existing laws.
Supporting new laws, the Gallup analysis noted, "might be described as the [Vice President Al] Gore position." Emphasizing stricter enforcement of existing laws, the analysis added, "would be more in line with the views of [Governor] George W. Bush."
"What this seeming conflict in views seems to be telling us," the Gallup analysis reported, "is that Americans find a strong stand against gun crimes appealing, regardless of the approach.
"This applies to both men and women, and among women, to mothers and non-mothers alike," the Gallup report concluded.