WASHINGTON -- Most Americans support tough new measures to combat gun violence, including a ban on assault weapons and posting armed guards at every school, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
More than half of all Americans -- 52 percent in the new poll -- say the Newtown, Conn., shootings made them more supportive of gun control; just 5 percent say they are now less apt to back tighter restrictions. Most also are at least somewhat worried about a mass shooting in their own community, with concern jumping to 65 percent among those with school-age children at home.
The findings, which also show broad bipartisan support for requiring mandatory background checks to purchase firearms at gun shows, come as President Barack Obama said Monday he will lay out specific White House proposals on gun control legislation and executive actions this week.
Obama has pledged to champion broad new reforms in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last month that killed 26, including 20 students. He is scheduled to receive a list of proposals on Tuesday from Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading a task force on gun violence.
But most congressional Republicans, and some Democrats, have said they are opposed to restrictive new measures, such as an assault weapons ban.
Administration aides have said the president is likely to include a call for a renewed ban on the most powerful rifles even in the face of heavy opposition from the National Rifle Association. In the poll, 58 percent of Americans support the ban, which expired in 2004 after 10 years as the law; 39 percent oppose it.
"My starting point is not to worry about the politics but to focus on what makes sense and what works," Obama said at a news conference Monday. "What should we be doing to make sure our children are safe and reduce incidents of gun violence? We can do it in a way that comports with the Second Amendment."
Obama declined to be specific when asked what recourse he has if Congress were to reject the ban, saying that "members of Congress must have a debate and examine their own conscience."
While the poll, produced for the Post by Capital Insight, showed cross-party support for some potential new policies, there was a sharp divide on others, particularly over how much emphasis the Obama administration and Congress should place on addressing gun issues.
Democrats and Republicans both see the economy as the clear top priority, but while most Democrats also rank gun control as one of the highest priorities for federal action, few Republicans -- or independents -- agree. Most Republicans say enacting stricter gun laws should be a lower priority, or not a priority at all.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, I, on Monday called on Obama and Congress to put in place strict new gun control measures in the wake of Newtown. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, D, also unveiled plans for an assault rifle ban and tougher gun licensing requirements in his state.
Recent polls have shown broadly positive sentiment for the NRA itself, but the new poll reveals a far more mixed verdict on its leadership. Some 36 percent express favorable views of the leadership of the NRA, while more, 44 percent, say they have unfavorable impressions. A sizable proportion, 20 percent, say they have no opinion.
A plurality of all Americans, 38 percent, see the organization has having "too much influence" over the country's gun control laws. Some 24 percent see the NRA as having "too little" sway, 30 percent say it has about the right amount.
In the new poll, 44 percent of all Americans say there is at least one gun at home, and those in households with guns are far less supportive of a variety of gun control measures than are those in non-gun households. Only 15 percent of those in gun households say the administration and Congress should put top priority on stricter laws.
Still, majorities in households with guns support background checks at gun shows (86 percent), background checks on ammunition purchases (76 percent) recently proposed by Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Conn., a new federal guns database (62 percent) and a nationwide ban on high-capacity clips (55 percent).
The NRA last month offered its own proposal to curb mass shootings, lobbying for the White House to support placing armed police or trained security guards at the nation's 100,000 schools -- an idea favored by 55 percent of the public, according to the Post-ABC poll. Those with children at home are more apt than those without to want armed guards at schools, but they are no more or less likely to support a range of new initiatives.
Across most potential new policies, support is far stronger among Democrats than among Republicans, except on placing armed guards in schools -- an idea favored by more Republicans.
The poll shows broad support among all Americans for establishing a database tracking all gun sales, an idea favored by 71 percent, and a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips (65 percent). Some 51 percent support a ban on semi-automatic handguns.
Some of the disagreements on policy reflect diverse opinions about the causes of gun violence in the country.
Overall, 56 percent see inadequate treatment of those with mental illness contributes "a great deal" to gun violence, and the same percentage blames insufficient background checks as a major cause. Next up is a lack of individual responsibility among gun owners. Fewer -- 38 percent -- see violent movies, television and video games as playing a big role, although more Republicans than Democrats see entertainment as a main contributor to gun violence.
In addition to partisanship and gun ownership, perception of the threat of mass shootings is related to support for new measures. Among those who are very worried about a mass shooting where they live, 65 percent back a nationwide ban on semi-automatic handguns. It is a mirror image 65 percent opposition to such a ban among those who are not at all concerned.
This poll was conducted January 10 to 13, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.