Sandy Hook Polling: Unlike Past Shootings, Massacre Is Seen As Sign Of Broader Problems

12/17/2012 01:16 pm ET | Updated Dec 17, 2012

The massacre Friday in Newtown, Conn., which has caused some politicians to reexamine their stances on gun control, could also shift public opinion in a way that previous mass shootings have not not, early polling suggests.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll, released Monday, found that just over half of Americans saw the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary as a sign of broader problems rather than an isolated incident. That response reverses a trend that remained solid through the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, the 2011 Tucson shooting, and the Aurora movie theater shooting earlier this year, each of which were viewed by a majority as isolated incidents.

The change encompassed the partisan spectrum, with most Democrats, Republicans and independents all viewing the Newtown shooting as indicating a wider issue.

Opinions on gun regulation didn't show similar movement, but several changes could signal a shift in the conversation on gun control.

The survey found a small bump in support for stricter gun control, with net support for new regulations up 7 points from August, but roughly in line with earlier polling. Support for banning semi-automatic handguns also increased from January, reaching a slim majority.

As The Post notes, the percentage of people strongly supporting gun control has grown, as has Democratic backing for new legislation:

For the first time since 2007, significantly more people strongly favor than strongly oppose stricter laws (44 to 32 percent). The number advocating tougher enforcement over new laws has dipped under 50 percent for the first time in periodic polls back to 2000. This change is most pronounced among Democrats, who, for the first time over this period clearly favor more laws over more enforcement (50 to 35 percent). About two-thirds of Republicans continue to advocate doing a better job carrying out existing gun laws.

An online HuffPost/YouGov survey conducted immediately after the shooting in Newtown found a bump in support similar to the one after 1999's Columbine shooting, although respondents were split over whether the time was right to discuss gun control.

The Post/ABC poll surveyed 602 adults by phone between Dec. 14. and Dec. 16, with a 4.5 percent margin of error.

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