Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American

Senators Who Opposed Background Checks Voted Against Their Constituents


Yesterday the U.S. Senate defeated a measure that would require background checks for individuals purchasing guns. Various senators who voted against it said their constituents told them to do so—despite nationwide surveys in the past few months indicating that roughly 90 percent of the nation favors background checks. President Barack Obama yesterday accused these senators of lying to Americans and caving to pressure from the National Rifle Association.

So who voted no, and how do the citizens of their states actually feel? The table below shows answers for 25 states. The data are culled from polls conducted in March by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns political action committee, and since January by Quinnipiac University.

Surprisingly, a number of the more prominent national survey organizations I contacted did not have breakdowns by state. If you have statistics for states not listed here, please add a citation in the Comments section below.


Senator voting no to background checksVoters in that state who support background checksSenator’s rating by National Rifle Association
Ayotte, Kelly (R-NH)89%A
Baucus, Max (D-MT)79%A+
Blunt, Roy (R-MO)85%A
Boozman, John (R-AZ)84%A
Burr, Richard (R-NC)90%A
Chambliss, Saxby (R-GA)91%A+
Coats, Daniel (R-IN)89%C+
Coburn, Tom (R-OK)87%A+
Flake, Jeff (R-AZ)90%A
Grassley, Chuck (R-IA)88%A
Hatch, Orrin (R-UT)83%A+
Heitkamp, Heidi (D-ND)94%A
Hoeven, John (R-ND)94%A
Inhofe, James (R-OK)87%A+
Isakson, Johnny (R-GA)91%A
Lee, Mike (R-UT)83%A
McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)82%A
Paul, Rand (R-KY)82%A
Portman, Rob (R-OH)83%A
Pryor, Mark (D-AR)84%C+
Reed, Harry (D-NV)86%B
Rubio, Marco (R-FL)94%B+
Thune, John (R-SD)79%A+
Vitter, David (R-LA)85%A
Other states polled; both senators voted yesCT, ME, NJ, NM, NY, PA, VA
States without poll resultsAK, AL, CA, CO, DE, HI, ID, IL, KS, MA, MD, MI, MN, MS, NE, OR, RI, SC, TN, TX, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY


Sources: Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Quinnipiac University

Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, public domain

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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