With as much as 90% of the public in favor of expanding background checks for gun purchases, you'd think all those senators who voted against last week's proposal to do just that may have been sticking their necks out. But in the New York Times, Nate Silver explain why that's not so. Silver first looks at senators up for re-election next year and finds that, almost universally, those from states with low gun ownership rates voted for the amendment while those from states with high gun ownership rates voted against the amendment. Couple that with the fact that "few of the Republican senators who are up for re-election in 2014 are vulnerable for any reason," and Silver doesn't think the vote will have much of an impact on next year's elections.
Another contributing factor: Much of the public may be in favor of expanded background checks, but that doesn't mean the amendment was viewed as a simple expansion of background checks. In other words, constituents who frown on gun control in general may have seen a "yes" vote "as a proxy for the senator’s overall attitude toward gun regulation and gun rights." Bottom line: "Polls showing 90% support for background checks will tend to overstate how well the Democrats’ position might play out before the electorate in practice, though public opinion was on their side on this vote," Silver writes. Even so, the issue could play well for Democrats symbolically, if "they are able to persuade voters that it reflects a Republican Party that is outside the mainstream." Click for his full column.