New poll shows broad support in Missouri for gun controls, school safety measures

St. Louis University YouGov survey also found split on sports wagering, worries about economy and support for initiative changes

By: - March 2, 2023 7:52 am

(Jason Hancock/Missouri Independent)

Missourians of all races, classes and political persuasions want safer schools and stricter gun laws, according to a poll released Thursday.

The latest St. Louis University YouGov poll shows support ranging from 63% to 83% for policies that include metal detectors, dedicated police officers, pre-approval of visitors and video security systems in schools.

The survey also found support ranged from 60% to 79% for red-flag laws, waiting periods for handgun purchases and criminal and mental health screenings before buying a firearm. There was little or no support for any bans on gun sales, said Steven Rogers, associate professor of political science and poll director.

“It kind of indicates that even though we’re in a fairly red state, we are having some more progressive policies, a little left of center policies, wanted by voters on both guns and school safety,” Rogers said.

The survey of 900 likely voters was conducted between Feb. 8 and 14. On questions that included the full sample, the margin of error was 3.7%.

Other striking aspects of the results, Rogers said, are that a plurality of those surveyed opposed legalization of sports wagering and a majority supported making it harder to pass a ballot measure by initiative

The sports wagering and initiative questions were only asked to a portion of those surveyed and had a margin of error of about 5%. The 41% of respondents who opposed sports wagering was near that margin against 35% supporting legal bets on college and pro teams.

“We cannot say that Missouri voters are opposed to sports betting,” Rogers said. “But we can say, to some degree, that the support isn’t as high as at least some of the conversations that I have seen in the media suggest it is.”

Lawmakers are debating proposals that would ask voters to set a higher threshold for passing constitutional amendments by initiative petition. The poll showed 22% said it should be at least 60% and 33% want a two-thirds majority requirement. Another 18% want to do away with the initiative process.

The current requirement for passing constitutional amendments, whether submitted by the legislature or through a petition, is a simple majority. 

Rogers said it is reasonable to assume voters who back the two-thirds majority would vote in favor of a proposal to set it at 60%.

The poll surveyed attitudes on other issues facing lawmakers this year, including how to support child care needs, teach about racial history, as well as views on the economy and major political figures. The findings include:

  • A majority, 64%, back tax credits for employers who provide child care and 41% favor tax credits to child care providers who make a capital investment in expansion.
  • Respondents were split on how to teach racial history, with 43% saying they were opposed to expanding curricula on racial and ethnic groups and 47% saying they were opposed to adding limits on that curricula.
  • The economy is the top issue for those surveyed, with 44% ranking it the No. 1 concern. They have a negative outlook as well, with 83% ranking the national economy and 78% ranking the state economy as fair or poor. On another question, 73% said the nation is going in the wrong direction and 44% said that for the state.
  • Republican officeholders generally have strong positive ratings. Gov. Mike Parson was net 7 percentage points positive, with 50% saying they approve or strongly approve of his performance. Sen. Josh Hawley, who is up for re-election next year, had the narrowest net approval, with 47% saying they approve or strongly approve of his performance in office and 44% saying they disapprove or strongly disapprove.

Respondents also see their schools and communities as generally safe but are less confident about safety in communities and schools statewide, Rogers said. 

“They’re less worried about their local public school and more worried about Missouri public schools,” he said. “They are also less worried about their local grocery store or place of worship.”

Black Missourians, however, are far less confident in the safety of their communities and schools.

Overall, 56% of respondents said their local schools are safe and 57% said they were not or only slightly worried about a shooting at their local school. For Blacks, however, 55% said safety at their schools was fair or poor and 48% said they were somewhat or very worried about a shooting at school.

Statewide, 47% of all respondents and 63% of Blacks said safety at schools is fair or poor. On the possibility of a school shooting, 56% of all respondents and 60% of Blacks said they are somewhat or very worried.

In the community, 60% of all respondents said they were not or only slightly worried about a shooting at their grocery story, but 49% of Blacks said they were somewhat or very worried. Most felt safe at their place of worship, with 63% of all respondents, and 54% of Blacks, saying they were not or only slightly worried about a shooting.

“They may be thinking, a little bit, ‘Oh, it can’t happen to me’ or ‘it’s not happening in my district,’” Rogers said.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget and the legislature. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he spent 22 of his 32 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics for the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.