Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Polling Shows A Voter's Gender Can Be A Factor In Their Views On Gun Control


A person's political affiliation can tell you a lot about their views on a number of issues. When it comes to gun control, though, a person's gender is also a crucial indicator. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben explains.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Tom Glaze keeps his two guns stowed away out of reach of his four children. The handgun is in a biometric safe tucked away in a dresser in his and his wife's bedroom.

TOM GLAZE: I don't keep it loaded. And then I've got the key. And the wife knows where they key is.

KURTZLEBEN: Also in the safe are the magazines for his semi-automatic rifle, a gun that is tucked away on a high closet shelf under a pile of Cincinnati Bengals jerseys.

GLAZE: Right up here is the AR. My kids don't ask about it. But yeah, that's the AR.

KURTZLEBEN: In a recent poll, Glaze was one of 39% of voters who said that it's more important to protect gun rights than to prevent gun violence - 56% of voters feel the opposite.

KATHLEEN WEBER: Do you mind dogs? This is my husband, Don.


WEBER: This is Danielle.

KURTZLEBEN: Kathleen Weber lives a couple of suburbs away.

WEBER: Registering owners is not a bad idea. I think removing as many of the assault weapons from our streets is a really good idea.

KURTZLEBEN: Tom and Kathleen both live in big, picturesque houses in the Toledo suburbs. They're both registered independents. And they represent one of the largest divides on gun control in the country - the gender divide. There are already huge gender divides in American politics. More women tend to be Democrats, and more men tend to be Republicans. But according to Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion...

LEE MIRINGOFF: The distinctions and gaps that exist along gender lines when it comes to gun-related issues and certainly issues dealing with gun restrictions are unusually wide.

KURTZLEBEN: Two-thirds of women say controlling gun violence is more important than protecting gun rights. Less than half of men agree. And that divide is even wider on some gun control proposals like a ban on so-called assault weapons and the mandatory gun buyback program. Glaze sees evidence of this divide in his own marriage in talking to his wife about his fears about the government trying to take his weapons.

GLAZE: You're not going to take my guns. I am very adamant about that one. And that will probably cause my wife a lot of dismay 'cause she's like, let them take it. No. I'm not going to let them take it.

KURTZLEBEN: But the gender divide on guns also, in some cases, transcends party. Half of Republican women favor a ban on so-called assault weapons compared to one-quarter of Republican men.

KRISTIN GOSS: There's something about being a woman, irrespective of all these other things, that makes you more sympathetic to gun control. And it's really hard to tell from survey data what that is.

KURTZLEBEN: Kristin Goss is a professor of political science at Duke University. She says socialization may be at work here, that boys and young men are more encouraged to try shooting guns or to eventually own a gun than girls and young women are. In addition, she says, some potential clues about the gender divide pop up in other surveys.

GOSS: It's not a big gap, but women seem to be a little bit more sympathetic to the role of the state in protecting people and society.

KURTZLEBEN: Suburban women like Kathleen Weber are an ever-important swing voter group. The question is whether guns will affect their votes.

WEBER: There are many more things that are more important to me - making sure that people have access to good health care, safety in our community. So health and safety, you know, if you want to put gun under that umbrella, then I guess they are linked together.

KURTZLEBEN: The challenge for both parties is how to weave gun issues into their larger visions for the country when gender complicates the typical partisan split.

Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Danielle Kurtzleben
Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.