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HomeNewsElectionsAnalysis: Why Gun Control Could Cost Donald Trump Re-election

Analysis: Why Gun Control Could Cost Donald Trump Re-election

President Donald Trump, center, Wayne LaPierre, right, and Chris Cox, left, at the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual convention in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo: NRA)
President Donald Trump, center, Wayne LaPierre, right, and Chris Cox, left, at the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual convention in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo: NRA)
President Donald Trump, center, Wayne LaPierre, right, and Chris Cox, left, at the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual convention in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo: NRA)

In the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, President Donald J. Trump is pushing for stricter gun control measures to include “red flag” laws and federal background checks.

Second Amendment supporters are calling the move his “read my lips” moment, a reference to George H.W. Bush breaking his promise and betraying his base over taxes.

In April 2017, President Trump delivered a rousing speech at the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual convention, making him the first president to return since 1983.

“You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you,” the president told supporters. “The 8 year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end.”

“You have a true friend and champion in the White House.”

He became the first sitting Republican President of the United States to return to thank the gun rights group since Ronald Reagan in 1983.

H.W. Bush skipped the conference and was defeated by Bill Clinton in 1992. He wrote a letter terminating his NRA membership in 1995 and blamed the loss on Ross Perot, who won 17% and 18% of self-identified Republican and conservative voters, respectively.

Consequently, Mr. Clinton blamed the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban for costing Democrats control of both chambers that same year in the Republican Revolution. George W. Bush sent Vice President Dick Cheney to the annual conference.

President Trump returned with promises.

“Let me make a simple promise to the freedom loving people,” he said. “As your president I will never, ever infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Freedom is not a gift from the government. Freedom is a gift from God.”

The NRA, the National Association for Gun Rights and others have all come out against the president’s proposal. At least one has already publicly stated the group will not support the president’s re-election if he moves forward with the current proposals, which they all view as ineffective.

For now, we’ll leave the question of effectiveness for another day, one that will come sooner rather than later. We ran a machine learning voter file analysis to gauge the potential impact Second Amendment supporters have on the electorate in 11 key battleground states.

For the purpose of the model, Second Amendment supporters are defined as follows:

Individuals who have donated to a known pro-Second Amendment organization, or who have an interest in hunting, fishing, or shooting, as well as military history interest.

Of a 55,072,850 pool of voters in Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, a sizable 12,748,553 are Second Amendment supporters.

That’s approximately 23.1% of the total electorate in the aforementioned battleground states. The table below depicts each state, the count pertaining to Second Amendment supporters, the total sample size and the totals for each.

StateCountTotal Sample
New Hampshire187,906852,109
North Carolina1,099,2575,818,104

Of the total 12,748,553 voters identified as Second Amendment supporters in those key battlegrounds, 3,831,600, or 30.06%, are verifiably Republican. Another 2,874,532, or 22.55%, are inferred Republican.

Worth noting, the model’s “inferred” identification is very accurate. Verifiable and inferred Republicans make up nearly 53%.

Republican3,831,600 30.06%
Inferred Republican2,874,532 22.55%
Inferred Democrat835,492 6.55%

By gender, the pro-Second Amendment electorate is almost an identical reverse mirror image of the battleground electorate, 52% male and 48% female.

By household income, nearly 62% earn less than $100,000.

Put bluntly, the voter profile for Second Amendment supporters are Republican target voters, and there are a lot of them. Those who aren't identified as Republican or inferred Republican are, demographically, prime voters the GOP should be targeting for crossover votes.

Instead, they're talking about depressing a significant percentage of the battleground electorate that is chock full of core target voters. Winning a national election is about putting together a series of voting blocs to form a majority or the largest voting plurality.

Contrary to popular belief, voting coalitions do not exist or evolve in a vacuum. Supporting a certain public policy position that increases support among one voting bloc can and more often will impact the level of support among another.

Building a winning coalition is a constant give and take equation. A successful national campaign is simply one that maximizes support in the vacuum.

The above analysis of battleground voters illustrates how "pandering" and/or "appeasement" almost never results in a net increase in support, let alone maximizes it.

There is an argument that support for stricter gun control measures has risen since the last shootings, and that President Trump and Republicans have an opportunity to appeal to college educated voters.

Given the modeling, this argument is problematic for several reasons. First and foremost, there are simply too many pro-Second Amendment voters to offset. This is a must-have bloc for a Republican presidential candidate.

Secondly, President Trump is not underperforming with college educated voters because he didn't support stricter gun control measures. It isn't their top issue. It's not even close.

Gun control is a temporary, marginal issue for these and most voters. Persuadable voters who support so-called "common sense" gun control do not vote on gun control.

Which hypothetical is more likely given the above data?

By supporting stricter gun control, President Trump will win over college educated voters who don't view it as a primary voting issue…


By supporting stricter gun control, President Trump will depress target voters who view opposing gun control as a primary voting issue.

Voters who do vote on gun control, vote to oppose it.

Those are the voters identified above who represent 23.1% of the total battleground electorate. Betraying promises made to any voting bloc risks depressing turnout, reducing margins and could very well end up costing Donald Trump re-election.


A common error made by political pundits is to assume others see the world as you do, and applying how you see the world to others. Also worth remembering, elections are won on the margins.

Let's take one state as an example -- Michigan.

In 2016, Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to carry the state since 1988. The statewide electorate cast 4,548,382 votes and his margin of victory was less than 10,000 votes.

The model identified 1,620,143 voters as Second Amendment supporters, of which 1,202,344 were Republicans, 323,981 were Democrats and 93,818 were unaffiliated.

The Democratic candidate doesn't need all of them to turn on Donald Trump. They just need a marginal percentage.

Depress them, and he will lose the state of Michigan. It's the same daunting story in Wisconsin, in which we currently view the president as the favorite.

Written by

Rich, the People's Pundit, is the Data Journalism Editor at PPD and Director of the PPD Election Projection Model. He is also the Director of Big Data Poll, and author of "Our Virtuous Republic: The Forgotten Clause in the American Social Contract."

Latest comments

  • Please don’t be so stupid. Trump can no more take away our guns than the democrats. A right to self defense is a right from God and nature. Would you rather have a democrat elected? Grow up.

  • If Trump tries to pass this “red flag” law, he is a democrat. His base will completely turn on him. If you want democrats back in there, just pass this law.

  • You can’t win. It doesn’t matter who wins what election. Joe American loses every time.

  • Donald Trump just cost himself the election with Gun Control Good job Donald.

  • Trump will do the right thing. He always does. We should all know that by now.

    • Bump Stock Ban.
      Now an accessory has been classified by an alphabet-soup agency with the power to make and enforce administrative law as a machine gun.
      Right thing?

      If I’m going to get a gun-grabbing democrat no matter how I vote, why should I vote at all. I’ll have no hand in the destruction of my country.

  • Trump needs to be primaried. I voted for this lying, backstabbing, flip flopping, promise breaking New York City bred con-artist, and I am at the end of my level of tolerance for watching this orange clown shove one knife of betrayal after another in the backs of the 63 million, majority White conservative voters who put him into the White House.

    He needs to be primaried and defeated and replaced by a hard core right wing conservative who is 100 percent pro-Second Amendment, 100 percent opposed to ANY more of these devious incremental gun control, gun bans, gun restrictions steps that the Communists on the left are pushing and which will NOT solve any of these crazy lunatic mass shootings (and the Commies know it); they will never be satisfied until they can abolish the Second Amendment and confiscate every privately and lawfully owned firearm.

    Trump has lost my vote in 2020 if he caves on either Universal Background Checks (which paves the way for a new law that mandates total gun registration, which the Commies need for their future gun confiscation plans) or if he caves on these un-constitutional, Soviet style red flag snitch laws.

    • You sound like a liberal pretending to be a Republican.

  • only Constitution-traitors & d-suckers support gun “control”

  • After being a loyal supporter of Trump in 2016, I will not be a supporter any longer if he pursues a course that deals with any restrictions on our 2nd amendment. It’s simply a non-starter. The real problem is the disintegrating family with no male role model in homes where children are bred like farm animals by liberal bitches with nothing in mind but to aggrandize themselves on the fodder of their bedtime adventures. The liberals have done it again. They first create a problem then they offer more ‘solutions’ that strip our rights while simultaneously giving themselves more control over our lives. It seems more likely that the swamp is draining Donald Trump than the other way around. Or he’s lost his mind. Not sure which at this point. The so-called ‘red-flag’ laws which are nothing but infringement of our rights, will not solve any real problems. Making it easier for another person to say you or I shouldn’t have a gun (or other weapon) is just a hair thickness distance away from some leftist putting a hold on your rights while you prove the opposite. It’s a gentle gun-grab. Nothing more, nothing less. Trump wake up. Your VA choice, that you touted has already been hollowed out by the VA administrators effective in June. They will do the same thing with this knee-jerk gun legislation. It’s a shame to hood-wink you and me.

  • Mr. Baris, I read your post with interest. Thank you for presenting your analysis with statistics, and why and how loosing support on this issue will definitely effect the 2020 election.

    “Betraying promises made to any voting bloc risks depressing turnout, reducing margins and could very well end up costing Donald Trump re-election.”

    I agree with this 100%. I can’t imagine why the President reacted so positively to the anti-gun forces that are trying to hood-wink him into a “deal” that will make everyone feel better, but accomplish nothing. I would think after all he’s been through, he would be more seasoned to reject knee-jerk reactions to events. I do hope he backs away slowly from this after some time to reflect on it and what it will mean to his re-election campaign.

    As a gun owner and shooting sports enthusiast I consider this issue as a “third-rail” for Pres. Trump. Should he decide to sign into law reactive legislation that will not address the underlying issues of why the American citizenry is killing each other, then he looses my support for his campaign. As Rush Limbaugh has stated repeatedly, only Trump can bring about the loss of support from his base. In effect, it’s his election to win or to loose. I have advised him to stay away from this third-rail issue. If he touches that rail, he’s going to loose a lot of support from thousands of voters like me. I live in Florida, and he will need every vote to win the state.

  • I’m done with Trump if he continues down this path, I don’t give a sh@tt if he’s playing “4d” chess because each and every time he supposedly “fakely” throws us, his base, under the buss to “look good” or to appease devilcrats, he’s is indirectly spitting on the issues that matter to us, his base, as if said subject was somehow bad to start with! Well I’m damn proud of my 2nd amendment rights and my family, friends and I are extremely proud to be part of the American gun culture! If Trump doesn’t stop what he is doing now, I refuse to vote for him or trust anyone with my rights again… Trump will do so much more damage than he realizes if he caves to devilcrats on our firearms because tens of millions of law abiding gun owners will fully remove themselves from the voting process rightfully thinking no matter what promises a politician says that he will go back on it at any time… it will also cause even more mistrust in government and could be one of the catalysts that helps set-off a cw2. Good job Trump, you are screwing your supporters, base and giving 2020 to the leftists who will outright destroy this great country within the first few weeks of 2020. Hope it was worth your virtue signaling, asswipe!

    • So many fake Republicans here. They all sound like how a Democrat imagines Republicans would respond.Sad really

  • I never thought Trump would do something approaching logic, but I still will work as hard as I can against him.

  • Hope he passes stitching loves so all you ignorant Trumpgo getters hide when he comes to get your guns and he will. He will do anything to win again, after all he is even a weather man…

  • Stricter gun laws, that is, guess I get carried away bad mouthing Trump. He is so good at calling others crooks. It takes a crook to know a crook.. You surely are making us GRATE…our teeth..for sure…

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