Toomey approval reaches new high after work on guns

WASHINGTON – Sen. Pat Toomey’s approval rating reached a personal high in a new poll taken days after he wrapped up his push to expand background checks for gun purchases.

Pennsylvania voters gave Toomey a 48-30 approval in a new Quinnipiac University poll. That's a new high for him, though it's just four points better than a month earlier.

Still, more than half of voters – 54 percent – thought more favorably of Toomey, a Republican, because of his work on guns, against just 12 percent who think less of him.

Even among Democrats, 41 percent approve of Toomey’s work, against 34 percent who disapprove. Republicans gave him a 58-25 rating.

Some gun owners were outraged by Toomey’s decision to co-sponsor a bill expanding background checks, but 85 percent of voters overall support the idea, according to the poll, similar to the findings in other surveys.

Asked specifically about his stand on guns, Toomey got a thumbs up from 34 percent of voters against 29 percent who disapproved.

Democratic Sen. Bob Casey got a 48 - 34 percent job approval. On guns the rating was 28 - 29.

Casey also endorsed expanded background checks, but he and Toomey differed on bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Casey supported the bans. Toomey opposed them, and ended up with a more high-profile role on the issue, given his co-sponsorship of the primary bill debated on the senate floor.

Even though voters overwhelmingly back tougher background checks, the so-called “intensity gap” between gun control supporters and gun owners’ groups is illustrated in several poll questions.

Asked, for example, if they had ever given money to a group involved in the gun control debate, 27 percent of voters who support gun rights said they had donated, against just 7 percent who favor gun control. Donations are just one illustration of strongly they feel about an issue, but they are a telling one when it comes to explaining how important that issue is for them.

Among voters who said they prioritized gun rights, 33 percent said they could not vote for a candidate who disagreed with them on the issue; 26 percent of those who favor gun control said a disagreement on that issue would prevent them from voting for a candidate they otherwise liked.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,235 registered voters from April 19 – 24. Its margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.