CBS Poll: Nearly Six In Ten Say Heated Rhetoric Unrelated To AZ Shooting

January 11, 2011 5:18 am

In a CBS poll released this morning, almost 60% of Americans said they don’t think strong political rhetoric is to blame for Saturday’s shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona that left six dead and wounded over a dozen others, including Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

In the poll, 57% of respondents said that intense political discourse had nothing to do with the attack, versus 32% who said that it was a contributing factor to the shooting. By political demographics, Republicans were less inclined to see a connection. Sixty-nine percent of Republicans said there was no connection, while 19% said it was in some way related. Among Democrats, 42% saw a connection between violent rhetoric and the weekend’s events, compared to 49% who said the two were unrelated.

The results show that the general public largely disagrees with one of the early story lines to emerge from the tragedy–that a recent spike in violent political speech may have created an environment in which someone actually took violent action.TPM Slideshow: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords: On The Job In Arizona

Soon after word of Rep. Giffords’ shooting began to spread, some in the media drew links between violent political rhetoric and the event. Violent metaphors have certainly been prevalent in recent years, whether it was Sharron Angle opining about “Second Amendment remedies”, or Sarah Palin calling for Republicans to “reload” rather than retreat.

Giffords herself was even he target of violent speech in the midterm election. Her opponent, Jesse Kelly, held a campaign event at which supporters could fire an M-16 to help him “get on target” to remove Giffords. Then there was the infamous targeting map put out by Sarah Palin’s PAC, which used gun sights to identify the districts of congressmen she wanted to oust in 2010. Giffords went on MSNBC last March and addressed that map specifically, saying people had to be mindful of the violent consequences that type of dialogue could inspire.

Jared Lee Loughner, the 22-year-old charged in the shooting, has been uncooperative with investigators so far, and no motive has been given. In the days after his arrest, Loughner’s convoluted anti-government writings emerged, and some former college classmates have said in interviews that Loughner exhibited troubled behavior in the past.

CBS interviewed 673 adults nationwide. The poll has a margin of error of 4.0%.

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