Is gun violence or terrorism the bigger threat to America?
Mass shootings are happening with alarming frequency in the United States, and the latest Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind national poll released Tuesday asks Americans if they see gun violence as a greater threat than terrorism.
In the poll, Republicans were far less likely than Democrats to say the bigger threat was gun violence, and far more likely to push for more guns as a way to reduce shootings.
"Among Democrats, the two concerns were tied, and 83 percent of Republicans say that terrorism is the bigger concern," said Dan Cassino, professor of political science at FDU and an analyst for the poll.
When asked which was the greater threat to the country:
- Overall, 63 percent said terrorism and 33 percent said gun violence;
- Forty-eight percent of Democrats said terrorism and 50 percent said gun violence;
- Eighty-three percent of Republicans said terrorism, while just 15 percent said gun violence.
"If you take the most liberal definition of terrorism in America that you can, there's less than 100 people killed by terrorism, right around 75 people," Cassino said. "Gun violence, on the other hand, kills about 10,000 people a year. By any measure, the combined number of terrorism deaths in the U.S. in the past 10 years is less than 1 percent of the number of gun deaths in any of those years, but the images of 9/11 left an indelible mark on the lives of many Americans, and continue to shape their views."
The partisan divide over which poses the greater threat might surprise some, given the fact that the majority of Republicans (57 percent) as well as Democrats (68 percent) said that to the best of their knowledge, more Americans have been killed by domestic gun violence than terrorism in the past decade.
It should come as no surprise that if the two political parties can't agree on which is the bigger threat, they also couldn't agree on the best solution.
"We find that 82 percent of Democrats say that better (gun) regulations is the best way to reduce the mass shootings in America," Cassino said, "and the majority of Republicans, 59 percent, say simply arming more people is the best way to reduce mass shootings."
The poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone from Oct. 1-5, 2015, among a random national sample of 771 adults. The margin of error is +/- 4.2 percentage points.
Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.