By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto, Fred Backus and Stephanie Condon
Following the devastating mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., support for stricter gun control laws is now the highest it's been in a decade and has surged 18 points since the spring of this year, according to a new CBS News poll.
Fifty-seven percent of Americans now say gun control laws should be made more strict, according to the poll, conducted Dec. 14 - 16.
The poll followed the news of the Dec. 14 shooting, in which a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The public's renewed interest in stricter gun laws is evident on the White House website, where more than 150,000 people have signed a petition asking for immediate action on the issue. The horrific event has prompted some pro-gun Democrats to , though the Republican party has remained largely silent on the issue. President Obama has said that in the coming weeks he will in efforts to prevent anymore such tragedies.
In January 2011, following the shooting of then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, a CBS News poll found that 47 percent of Americans backed stricter gun laws. That figure dropped off, however, in polling conducted about a year after the incident. In April of this year, just 39 percent of Americans supported stricter gun laws.
While more than half want tighter gun laws, three in 10 think laws covering guns should be kept as they are. Only nine percent think gun laws should be less strict.
Still, fewer than half of Americans (42 percent) think stricter gun laws would have helped prevent the violence at Sandy Hook Elementary. Thirty-six percent felt that way after the shooting of Giffords, but after the incident at Virginia Tech in 2007, more than half of Americans said tighter gun laws would have done a lot or a little to prevent that shooting.
Views on gun control and its possible impact on the Newtown shooting differ by political party. Most Democrats support stricter gun control laws and think they would have done at least something to prevent the violence at Sandy Hook. By comparison, fewer Republicans favor stricter gun control measures, and most think tighter laws would have done nothing to prevent what happened in Newtown.
There are also regional differences on the issue of gun control. Support for tougher measures is highest in the Northeast (at 66 percent) and West (at 68 percent). Those in the Midwest and South are less likely to back stricter gun control laws.
In the days following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, just over a third of Americans said that they feel schools in their community are extremely or very safe. Just 22 percent said that about U.S. schools overall.
Opinions on the safety of schools in one's own community have changed little over the years. Parents' views on gun control laws and school safety are similar to those of Americans overall.
News of the school shooting in Connecticut has captured the attention of the American public. More than nine in 10 have heard or read at least something about it, including 69 percent who have heard a lot about the shooting.
For full poll results, see next page.
This poll was conducted by telephone from December 14-16, 2012 among 620 adults nationwide.
Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.