Castleton Poll Measures Vermonters' Support for Gun Control Measures

Vermonters generally support increased measures for controlling access to firearms and ammunition, according to a recent poll by the Castleton Polling Institute at Castleton. An overwhelming majority of Vermonters (84 percent) favor requiring strict reporting from mental health professionals to the national instant background check system (NICS); 44 percent strongly favor such reporting. A majority of Vermonters polled also support closing the gun show loophole (75 percent), banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines (66 percent), banning further sale of assault weapons (61 percent), and making it illegal to own an assault rifle (54 percent).

Vermont gun owners are less supportive of gun control measures, overall, than are those who do not own firearms. Fifty percent of all respondents to the poll report that they or someone in their household owns a firearm of some type. As Figure 1 illustrates, respondents who have guns in the household are less supportive of all restrictive measures, but still support requiring stricter reporting by mental health professionals, closing the gun show loophole, and restricting sale of high-capacity magazines. The largest difference between gun owners and those who do not own guns is on the question of making it illegal to own or possess assault rifles – a difference of 30 percentage points.

While the differences between gun owners and those who do not own guns appear fairly large, the differences between Democrats and Republican respondents are even greater. On the issue of making it illegal to own an assault rifle, Democrats’ support for the ban is 42 percentage points higher than that of their Republican counterparts (87 percent compared with 45 percent, respectively). In fact, the only measures listed in Figure 1 that have majority support among Republican respondents are the requirement for strict reporting to NICS by mental health professionals (86 percent) and closing the gun show loophole (61 percent).

Figure 1 - Percent who favor restrictions, by gun ownership

Despite the powerfully emotional stories and images from Newtown, Connecticut, only 19 percent of all respondents said that the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School changed their views about gun control. Ninety percent of those who report changing their views (17 percent of the total sample) say that they are now more likely to support gun control measures; only 6 percent of those whose views were changed (1 percent of the total sample) say that they are now less likely to support gun control.

The data in this poll are based on 620 completed interviews, 130 of which were respondents reached by cell phone. The interviews were conducted between February 6 and February 17, 2013. For a sample of this size, the margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level is +/-3.9 percent, although the margin of error is larger for questions involving subsamples of respondents. While sampling error is only one source of potential survey error, precautions have been taken to minimize other sources of error for this poll.

Next week, the Castleton Polling Institute will share findings related to wind energy, health care, and cell phone use while driving. All data findings will be made public on the Polling Institute’s web site.

For more information about this poll or any of the work of the Castleton Polling Institute, please contact the institute’s director, Rich Clark, at (802) 468-1306 or

Review full results

Figure 2- Percent who favor restrictions in general

A 2004 survey by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that the level of gun ownership in Vermont was 42 percent, significantly lower than the estimate found in the Castleton poll. The CDC data was gathered as a part of the annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS), although the questions about firearms are not part asked every year. Differences between the population estimates found by the CDC and those found by Castleton may be attributed to differences in question wording, differences in sampling procedures, or real differences in gun ownership between 2004 and 2013.