Saturday, January 15, 2011

Poll Finds Americans ‘Rejecting the Blame Game’ Over Arizona Shooting

“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," Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said of the poll, which was released Jan. 14.

The poll found the 40 percent of Americans thought that the Arizona shooting could not have been prevented. Another 23 percent blamed the “mental health system” for the crime.

Only a small fraction of respondents blamed either hyperbolic political rhetoric or gun control laws, with 15 percent blaming rhetoric and 9 percent blaming gun control laws.

Unsurprisingly, self-identified liberals comprised the largest portion of those blaming political hyperbole for the attack – with 21 percent saying rhetoric was to blame.

However, despite the fact that very few Americans actually thought political rhetoric was to blame for the shooting, a slim majority agreed with the idea that violent rhetoric could inspire mentally unstable people to commit violence.

Fifty-two (52) percent of respondents said they agreed that “heated” political rhetoric could drive unstable people to become violent, while 41percent disagreed. This result was overwhelmingly driven by the 71 percent of liberals who said that political rhetoric could cause violence.

The opinions of moderates and conservatives were more evenly split, with 51 percent of moderates agreeing and only 43 percent of conservatives saying rhetoric could cause violence.

Interestingly, when asked which side they thought was more responsible for overheated political language, a slim plurality of Americans said that liberals were more likely to use overblown speech.

Thirty-six (36) percent of respondents blamed liberals for overheated political rhetoric, with 32 percent blaming conservatives and another 32 percent saying they didn’t know.

Predictably, most of those blaming liberals were conservatives – 57 percent – while most of those blaming conservatives were liberals – 71 percent. Moderates were fairly evenly split, with 36 percent blaming conservatives, 31 percent blaming liberals, and 33 percent saying they didn’t know.

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