Monday, September 22nd, 2014
Mostly True
Obama
Says "overwhelming majorities of Americans" support gun legislation "like background checks."

Barack Obama on Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 in the State of the Union Address

President Barack Obama says an 'overwhelming' majority supports gun legislation like background checks

President Barack Obama used his 2013 State of the Union address to urge Congress to vote on legislation to reduce gun violence.

Victims of recent attacks deserve it, he said, and voters support some "common-sense reform."

"Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around common-sense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun," he told lawmakers.

Do "overwhelming majorities of Americans" support gun legislation such as background checks?

The evidence

Viewers who watched an enhanced version of Obama’s speech online at WhiteHouse.gov saw a graphic that said "92 percent of Americans support background checks for gun buyers."

It cited an independent poll from Quinnipiac University, which we quickly found on the university’s site.

The results from the phone poll of 1,772 registered voters in late January and early February 2013 were straightforward:

• It found 92 percent support for background checks for all gun buyers, which the Quinnipiac pollsters described as "overwhelming."

• It found 91 percent support for universal background checks among voters in a household with a gun.

Other polls we’ve cited in recent fact-checks also found high percentages of support for universal background checks, even among gun owners.

A Pew Research Center poll from Jan. 9-13, 2013, of 1,502 adults found 85 percent of Americans (and 85 percent of gun owners) favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks.

A CBS/New York Times poll conducted Jan. 11-15 among 1,110 adults showed that 92 percent of Americans (and 85 percent of respondents living in a household with an NRA member) support universal background checks.

Obama did cherry-pick the gun-control proposal on which consensus is strongest -- background checks. Other proposals he might also call "common-sense," such as bans on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, held 56 percent support in the Quinnipiac poll. And they were narrowly opposed by voters in households with a gun, with 52 percent against such measures.

Our ruling

Obama said "overwhelming majorities of Americans" support gun legislation "like background checks." The poll cited by the administration, as well as other independent polls in 2013, do show support for universal background checks above 80 percent among voters, even those who own guns.

But people would get the impression from Obama's statement that there is similar support for other White House gun proposals, when the reality is weaker majority support among voters and slim opposition among gun owners. That’s a point worth clarifying. We rate the president’s claim Mostly True.