POLITICS
04/13/2013 09:16 am ET | Updated Apr 13, 2013

Background Checks Beat Apple Pie, Baseball, Kittens In Americans' Hearts: Poll

Pitching gun violence legislation during a major speech in Connecticut this past week, President Barack Obama noted that, according to multiple polls, 9 in 10 Americans agree that somebody purchasing a firearm needs a background check.

"How often do 90 percent of Americans agree on anything?" he joked, drawing laughter from the audience.

In collaboration with the online polling firm YouGov, The Huffington Post set out to answer that question. What we found: Not often.

We asked about the most popular, least controversial things we could think of, and we found only one thing -- ice cream -- that garnered more approval than background checks do on some surveys.

More Americans, it turns out, support universal background checks than like apple pie, baseball, kittens and child labor laws.

  • Only 81 percent have a favorable opinion of apple pie. And among the youngest adults (those under age 30), only 70 percent have a favorable opinion of the quintessential American dessert, suggesting that its popularity may slip even further over time.
  • Seventy-six percent of Americans have a favorable view of the raison d'etre of the Internet: kittens. We don't have numbers on this, but we suspect more people may be allergic to kittens than to background checks. And kittens have a tendency to grow up to become cats, which other surveys have found to be a divisive issue.
  • Child labor laws are rated favorably by only 71 percent of Americans. That number is dragged down by the independents in the survey, only 65 percent of whom said they like those laws.
  • Baseball received a favorable rating from an abysmal 67 percent of respondents, meaning that while background checks may not be quite as American as baseball and apple pie, they're more popular than either one. The survey found a gender gap in ratings for the sport, with 72 percent of men but only 63 percent of women having a favorable opinion.
  • Ninety-three percent have a favorable view of ice cream, making the tasty summertime treat more popular than background checks. Like background checks, ice cream receives bipartisan support from the American public, as 97 percent of Republicans and 93 percent of Democrats agree that ice cream is pretty great.

A word of caution: While some surveys (mostly those that refer to "universal background checks" without specifically asking about gun shows and private sales) have found 90 percent support for background checks, other polls show somewhat lower support.

A HuffPost/YouGov survey found only 73 percent backing them "including at gun shows and for private sales." And a recent CNN poll found differing levels of support for background checks at gun shows (83 percent), for sales by individual gun owners (70 percent) and for purchases from family members or gifts (54 percent).

The legislation currently being considered by the Senate would expand background checks to include sales at gun shows and online purchases, but would exempt transfers and gifts between family members. With those specifics, kittens and apple pie might take the win over background checks -- but child labor laws and baseball still look worse.

The poll was conducted April 10-11 among 1,000 adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling.

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