For the first time in more than 20 years, Americans say it's more important to protect the right to own guns than it is to control gun ownership, according to a Pew Research poll released Wednesday that finds "a substantial shift in attitudes since shortly after the Newtown school shootings."
While 46 percent prioritize gun control, 52 percent of Americans are more concerned about the right to own guns, the first time a majority has held that position since Pew started asking the question in 1993. In a poll taken immediately after the December 2012 shootings, public opinion favored gun control by 7 points, 49 percent to 42 percent.
While the partisan divide on the question remains as wide as ever, the increasing support for gun rights spans across a wide swath of demographics. Compared with last January, support for gun rights increased by 6 points among Republicans and Democrats, 7 points among independents, 8 points among whites and 10 points among African Americans.
Americans are also more likely than two years ago to say gun ownership does more to protect against crime than it does to put people's safety at risk. Fifty-seven percent now say guns are largely protective, up from 48 percent in 2012.
Other surveys show similar changes. An October Gallup poll found that 47 percent of Americans wanted stricter gun laws, down from 58 percent after the Newtown shootings.
The Pew Research poll was conducted between Dec. 3 and Dec. 7, using live phone interviews to reach 1,507 adults who use both landlines and cell phones.