Washington state voters support both expanding background checks for gun sales and restricting background checks for gun sales, according to an Elway Poll released Tuesday.
The poll, the first public survey of voters to gauge support for the initiatives simultaneously, shows the pro-background check Initiative 594 is starting the campaign in better shape. But the anti-background check measure Initiative 591 also has support.
The measures will be on the November ballot.
I-594 would require background checks for all gun transfers, including between private citizens. I-591 would keep the current system of requiring the checks only for sales from licensed firearm dealers (it also calls for prohibiting the government from confiscating guns without due process).
Should the dueling initiatives pass, the issue would probably go to the state Supreme Court.
Depending on how the questions were asked, or how much information was included, the results varied slightly. Here’s a breakdown:
Asked about the initiatives, 72 percent of voters said they would support I-594, while 55 percent said they would support I-591 and 40 percent said they would support both.
Asked generally about background checks in a follow-up question, 62 percent of voters said they wanted more extensive background checks, 32 percent said they wanted to keep the current system and 6 percent expressed no opinion (an Elway Poll last March found 79 percent of voters supported expanded background checks).
Asked generally about gun restrictions, 50 percent of voters said protecting gun rights was more important than controlling gun ownership and 40 percent said the reverse (last year’s Elway Poll found a 55-37 split in favor of gun rights).
Republicans were more inclined to support I-591 (72 percent) than I-594 (68 percent). Democrats were more inclined to support I-594 (87 percent) than I-591 (46 percent).
And among gun owners (35 percent of the sample), 71 percent said they intended to vote for I-594 compared to 57 percent for I-591.
The telephone poll of roughly 500 voters, conducted April 9-13, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent).