Initiative 594 would broaden background checks to include all gun sales. Initiative 591 would bar such a change in law until a new national standard were in force. But in a survey released Tuesday, the Elway Poll found 72 percent were likely to support I-594 with 19 percent opposed; at the same time, 55 percent were likely to support the contrary measure I-591 and 33 percent were opposed, pollster Stuart Elway said.
“If the election were today, Washington voters would create some work for the state Supreme Court by passing conflicting measure on background checks for gun sales,” Elway’s poll report says diplomatically.
Both measures were circulated a year ago as initiatives to the Legislature, and each similarly strong numbers of signatures to qualify - but both go to the November ballot because the Legislature declined to act on either.
National groups and financing are expected on both sides of both measures in what is shaping up as a major ballot fight. Backers of I-594 have raised $1.67 million, while backers of I-591 have raised $728,326, according to data on file at the state Public Disclosure Commission.
In a bid to clarify the apparent voter confusion, Elway says the survey team asked voters if they favored more extensive background checks on gun sales, and a clear 62 percent majority said they did. Yet half of those voters said they would vote for I-591, which – given the inability of Congress to enact legislation on such a hot subject as gun control – makes such a thing almost impossible to accomplish.
Elway’s poll put questions to 501 registered Washington voters during April 9-13, and 29 percent were using cell phones. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.Elway said the 62 percent support for background checks “could represent a significant decline in support for background checks. And yet 72 percent intend to vote for I-594 to expand background checks.’’ He said more confusion is around I-591.
The polling detected divides along ideological and political party lines – with Republicans saying by 74 percent to 20 percent that “protecting gun rights was more important than controlling gun ownership.” Independents also put gun rights first by a 55 percent to 34 percent margin. By contrast, Democrats favored “controlling gun ownership over protecting gun rights” by a 66 percent to 24 percent margin, Elway wrote.
The pollster found what he called strong majorities of each camp in favor of expanding background checks.
The questions broke along gender lines, too. Men put gun rights ahead of background checks by 54 percent to 37 percent while a slim 47 percent to 44 percent majority of women took that view.
Just 35 percent of those polled owned guns, and yet 62 percent favored expanded background checks and 71 percent said they intended to vote for I-594.