Most Americans don't think rhetoric caused shootings
A majority of Americans - 57 percent - do not think political rhetoric caused the deadly shootings in Tucson on Saturday, although nearly one-third think it was a factor.
A CBS News poll also found that nearly half think civility is in short supply when people discuss politics and even more - 52 percent - think it has declined among politicians.
• 57% of Americans do not think the harsh political tone of recent campaigns encouraged the shootings of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others. Six people died.
• But 49% think the level of civility has declined among Americans engaged in political discourse, and 52% think it has declined among members of Congress.
• Three in four Americans think violent action against the government is never justified – but they are more divided when asked whether they think this type of violence will ever happen again. 45% expect there will be more violent acts like this; 47% think this was a random act that will not be repeated.
• Support for stricter gun control laws has increased some in the wake of this incident. 47% think gun control laws should be made more strict, up from 40% last year. Still, 58% don't think stricter gun control laws would have prevented the shooting.
Did harsh political tone have anything to do with Arizona shootings?
But Americans are more divided when looking at accused suspect Jared Loughner's political views. 45% of Americans think Mr. Loughner's political views probably entered into his reasons for the shooting, while 33% think they probably did not, and 22% aren't certain.
Were Loughner's political views a factor in Arizona shootings?
Most Americans have heard or read about the shootings in Arizona, including 47% who have heard a lot about them.
Whether politics played a factor in these shootings or not, few Americans think it is ever justified for citizens to take violent action against the government. Three in four think it is never justified, similar to the percentage that said so last April.
Is violent action against the government ever justified?
But some Americans expect that more violent acts like the Arizona shootings will occur over the next year or so. 45% of Americans think a shooting like this could be repeated, while 47% think the incident was a random act and not likely to be repeated.
Will shootings like this happen again?
Will be more violent acts
Random act/Won't be repeated
There are partisan differences: 55% of Republicans describe the shootings in Arizona as a random act, compared to 45% of Democrats who think that.
Back in 1998, after a shooting on Capitol Hill that resulted in the death of two Capitol police officers, Americans were more likely to call that incident a random act – 59% thought that was the case.
In the wake of the shooting of a U.S. Representative, some have suggested that members of Congress should be provided with security protection, but Americans are split on the issue: 48% say members of Congress should have bodyguards, while 45% think they should not.
Should members of Congress have bodyguards?
Many Americans think political discourse has become less civil over the past decade. About half think Americans overall and members of Congress are less civil than they were ten years ago when debating issues facing the country.
Civility when debating the issues: Now vs. 10 years ago among . . .
Members of Congress
About the same
The weapon Loughner allegedly used in the shooting was a semi-automatic Glock that can be legally purchased in the United States. 48% of Americans think current gun control laws should either be kept as they are now or made less strict, while 47% think they should be stricter. Support for stricter gun control laws has risen slightly since last year, but is down from the levels seen in 2002 and 1994.
Should gun control laws be…?
Kept as now
And most Americans do not think stricter gun control laws would have prevented the shootings in Tucson. While 36% think that stricter laws would have done at least a little to prevent the violence that occurred this past weekend, 58% think stricter laws would have had no effect. This percentage rises to 77% among gun-owners.
How much would stricter gun laws have prevented AZ shootings?
Have gun in household
This poll was conducted by telephone on January 9-10, 2011 among 673 adults nationwide who were first interviewed by CBS News December 17-20, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
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