Poll: Supermajority in Michigan support universal background checks

By: - July 18, 2020 6:12 am
A gun show

Alex Wong, Getty Images

A new survey shows that an overwhelming majority of Michigan voters support universal background checks as a gun safety measure.

The poll commissioned by the nonprofit gun control group Giffords, highlights Michigan residents support for stronger gun safety policies. It shows eight in 10 voters support universal background checks.

“We know that background checks are a life-saving measure and are the backbone of a lot of gun safety legislation to come and is supported by a majority of Democrats, Republicans, men, women — you name it,” said Joanna Belanger, Giffords political director.  “So this is a real opportunity to flip the Senate.”

The U.S. Senate is composed of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 2 independents (Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine), both of whom caucus with the Democrats. Senate Republicans have been unwilling to support the measure. 


Giffords was formed in 2016 by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband, Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, who is running for U.S. Senate as a Democrat against U.S. Sen. Martha McSally (D-Ariz.). It is dedicated to saving lives from gun violence. 

Giffords suffered a severe brain injury during a January 2011 assassination attempt in Arizona. The mass shooting occurred just outside of Tucson during an event with her constituents. The incident and subsequent health challenge forced her to resign from the U.S. House in 2012.

Giffords, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and Elizabeth Lancaster, a senior at Michigan State University from Grand Rapids, will hold a virtual rally Tuesday in support of universal background checks and electing senators who support them. 

“Sen. Peters is committed to working towards common-sense solutions to address the epidemic of gun violence, including fighting to pass comprehensive background checks and co sponsoring legislation to protect victims of domestic violence,” said Peters spokesperson Vanessa Valdivia. 

She added that “Michiganders overwhelmingly support common-sense solutions like background checks” and said Peters is “proud” to join Giffords at the online event.


Peters is running for reelection this year against GOP businessman John James. Fifty-four percent of state voters, according to survey results, are unsure where James stands on background checks. Nineteen percent wrongly assumes James supports background checks.

During last fall’s Michigan Republican annual meeting on Mackinac Island, James said that he’s open to a discussion on background checks but would not commit to supporting legislation, according to an MLive.com report. 

A James spokesperson did not return a request for comment on the survey. 

The survey was taken on July 9 and July 10 and reached 1,041 state voters. Other results include:

  • 48% of Michigan voters are less likely to support a candidate if they oppose background checks, while 13% are more likely to support a candidate who opposes background checks.
  • When asked another way, 56% of voters indicated that they are more likely to vote for a Senate candidate who supports background checks and 9% are more likely to vote for a Senate candidate who opposes them.


Twenty-three percent of Michigan voters wrongly believe that President Donald Trump supports background checks. Another 30% are not sure of Trump’s position.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) last fall urged Trump to support H.R. 8, a bill that would require background checks on all gun sales with limited exceptions. But CBS News reported at that time that Trump didn’t support it.

In January, just prior to a Virginia rally hosted by gun enthusiasts and militia members who oppose background checks for gun purchasers and other firearms restrictions that were being considered in the state, Trump criticized the reforms and tweeted, “Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia.”

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.