Gun Control Debate: Will Pat Toomey's Approval Ratings Make GOP Rethink Issue?

Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R-Pa.) ratings have soared to their highest ever in his home state in the wake of his work on a bipartisan gun background checks bill. His positive poll numbers may send a signal to Republicans in both swing states and traditionally blue states that it’s time to back down on gun control.

According to a recent poll by Quinnipiac University, 48% said they approve of the job Toomey is doing and only 30% said they disapprove. This 18-point positive percentage margin is a huge jump from his 11-percentage point margin in March.

When it came to gun control specifically, voters in Pennsylvania said they approved of Toomey’s handling of the bill 34 to 29%. Additionally, 54% of voters said they think more highly of him because of his effort to expand background checks while only 12%t said they did not. 

Toomey’s new ratings represent something of a shift in terms of Pennsylvania’s traditional past. While Pennsylvania has trended significantly blue over the last several national elections — Democrats have taken the state in presidential elections for the last six elections — Republicans still hold the governorship and a majority in both the state House and Senate. Pennsylvania has also traditionally been a pro-gun state, and the state government has been unsuccessful in passing statewide gun control laws. At 69% of Pennsylvania’s voters say they are in favor of increased background checks. While that seems high, it is still far less than the national support, which currently sits at 91%.

While Toomey is reaping rewards for his support, some of his fellow blue state and swing state Republicans still voted no on the measure. Perhaps these positive numbers will give representatives like Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to change their tune. 

Ayotte would be immediately helped by such a change. New Hampshire is very pro gun control, and backlash against her “no” vote was almost immediate. Public Policy Polling reports that her numbers are down 15 percentage points since October,  pushing her number down to a negative approval rating with 44% of voters giving her the thumbs up and 46% disapproving. She and Grassley are now “discussing ways they might support” a new gun-control bill. Ron Johnson might want to hop onboard those discussions, as he is the most conservative representative from Wisconsin and his poll numbers in his home state are extremely unimpressive.