January 14, 2011 - Few U.S. Voters Blame Guns, Rhetoric For Ariz. Shooting, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Most See Racial Progress Since Dr. King Was Killed
Saturday's shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in which six people were killed, could not have been prevented, 40 percent of American voters say in a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Another 23 percent blame the mental health system, while 15 percent say it was due to heated political rhetoric and 9 percent attribute the tragedy to lax gun control.
American voters say 52 - 41 percent that "heated political rhetoric drives unstable people to commit violence," the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. Liberals rather than conservatives are more responsible for such rhetoric, voters say 36 - 32 percent.
Voters surveyed just before the Martin Luther King Day holiday say 31 - 21 percent that the United States is a safer place for political figures today than during Dr. King's era, with 45 percent saying things are about the same.
There has been "significant progress" toward Dr. King's dream of racial equality, voters say 78 - 17 percent, including 71 - 26 percent among black voters. Race relations in the U.S. are "generally good," voters say 64 - 27 percent, including 58 - 30 percent among black voters.
"Americans seem to be rejecting the blame game for the Arizona shooting. By far, the largest number thinks this tragedy could not have been prevented," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Although a bare majority of voters say political rhetoric might drive unstable people to violence, less than one in seven blame it for the Arizona incident.
"As they mark the Martin Luther King holiday, voters of all races think race relations in the U.S. are good and that the nation has made progress in achieving racial equality."
American voters approve 57 - 23 percent of the way President Barack Obama is handling race relations, his best approval rating on any issue. White voters approve 53 - 27 percent, while black voters approve 81 - 5 percent and Hispanic voters approve 70 - 16 percent.
The Arizona shooting captured the public's attention, with 59 percent saying they are paying a lot of attention to the story and 26 percent saying they are paying some attention to the story.
"Those are unusually high numbers," said Brown. "Clearly it has struck a chord with the American people."
Questions about the Arizona shooting were asked January 10-11 as part of a larger Quinnipiac University national survey that stretched from January 4-11. A total of 581 voters were questioned about the shooting with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent. The entire survey, including the questions about race relations, includes 1,647 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.4 percent.