Heitkamp Doubts Polls Showing Huge Support For Background Checks

Saying her office was inundated with calls from opponents to new gun legislation, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) expressed skepticism toward polls conducted after the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. showing overwhelming support for an expansion of background checks on gun buyers.

Heitkamp was one of four red state Democrats to vote against a proposal to strengthen background checks that went up in flames in the Senate last week. She said her constituents made it clear how they felt about the measure.

“I think I always had a reputation as somebody who will listen, somebody who is pretty independent-minded but also believes that at the end of the day, you got to listen to your constituents,” Heitkamp told Politico. “In this office, the calls literally were before the last day at least 7 to 1 against that bill. This was after a series of very extensive ad campaigns done in my state saying call me and tell me to support it.”

When asked about polling that has consistently shown upwards of 90 percent of Americans supporting an expansion of background checks on gun purchasers, Heitkamp said she doubted that they really reflected public opinion, claiming that polls showed her trailing Republican Rick Berg by double digits in the weeks before last year’s election.

“That wasn’t true either,” she said.

PollTracker’s collection of data on the 2012 U.S. Senate race in North Dakota includes only one public survey that showed Heitkamp trailing by double digits. Polls conducted throughout the campaign consistently showed an extremely tight race between Heitkamp and Berg. On Election Day, the PollTracker Average showed an outright tie between the two, which turned out to be an accurate harbinger of Heitkamp’s margin of victory of fewer than 3,000 votes. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Kludt is a reporter for Talking Points Memo based in New York City, covering media and national affairs. Originally from South Dakota, Tom joined TPM as an intern in late-2011 and became a staff member during the 2012 election. He can be reached at tom@talkingpointsmemo.com.
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