Jun 15, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Focus group: Arizona swing voters skeptical of gun reform framework

Illustration of a gun with a trigger in the shape of a question mark

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Arizona swing voters in our latest Engagious/Schlesinger focus groups said they're skeptical the Senate's bipartisan gun reform framework will make a meaningful difference in curbing gun violence or crime anytime soon.

The big picture: Getting inflation and gas prices under control was the most-cited priority — followed by protecting abortion rights — in two Monday night focus groups with 13 Arizonans who voted for Donald Trump in 2016, then Joe Biden in 2020.

  • Passing a new federal law to curb gun violence shared the No. 3 spot with making health care more affordable and cracking down on crime. But the politics cut both ways; two of the 13 swing voters said their priority is protecting the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

These were among the big takeaways from the online panels comprised of one Democrat, five Republicans and seven independents.

  • The swing voters also expressed deep dissatisfaction with President Biden, saying they feel "disappointed," "nervous" about his age and "annoyed" whenever they see him on TV.
  • Notably, 10 of 13 said they believe former President Trump should be prosecuted in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
  • Only five had watched the start of the Jan. 6 hearings. Several said they'd like to see prime-time hearings on inflation and the economy.
  • Six of the swing voters said they would choose Trump in a hypothetical rematch with Biden, including some who thought Trump should be prosecuted.

Why it matters: Arizona is a crucial state for the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential election.

  • While a focus group is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, the responses show how some voters are thinking and talking about current events.
  • Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), whose re-election contest is among a handful that could decide control of the Senate, is the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who in 2011 was shot in the head and nearly killed.
  • The bipartisan framework would be the most significant gun reform passed in decades and a rare example of Congress being able to work together. But when reading the details, only one of the 13 swing voters said they believed it would make a real difference in addressing gun violence in America.

What they're saying: "Criminals can get guns no matter what laws there are," said Jonas G., 52, from Phoenix. "You can put all the laws on the books. Criminals are going to get guns."

  • Ryne R., 30, said: "It just sounds like they’re addressing more of people’s mental health and people’s psyche" instead of things relating to guns. "These laws will probably stop gun violence in a couple generations, but not today or not tomorrow."
  • "There's no fundamental change to any major law that would prevent somebody from going out there, buying a gun and doing exactly what they're going to do," said Jerry M., 58.

The bottom line: “These Arizona swing voters are highly dubious the bipartisan gun framework, if enacted, would make a real difference in curbing gun violence,” said Rich Thau, president of Engagious, who moderated the focus groups. 

  • “As for what they want done, they’re all over the place — with some supporting bans on large-capacity magazines and sales of semi-automatics to those under 21, while others endorse hardening soft targets with armed guards."
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