Voters reject blame game in US shootings

2011-01-14 15:33

Washington - Most US voters say the Tucson shootings targeting Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords could not have been prevented while few blame the toxic political climate, a poll showed on Friday.

Saturday's attacks, in which a lone, misfit gunman killed six people and left Giffords fighting for her life, have unleashed a wave of soul-searching about America's political culture.

In the wake of the tragedy, some say the shooting throws a spotlight on the country's profound political woes. A number of liberals claim the tragedy is somehow linked to a climate of hate whipped up by conservative political figures like Sarah Palin.

But only 15% of US voters surveyed in a Quinnipiac University national poll blamed "overheated political rhetoric" for the killings allegedly carried out by a disturbed local 22-year-old.

The figure was slightly higher for liberals - 21%. Yet a majority of voters – 52% - agreed in general terms that heated political rhetoric drives unstable people to commit violence. Among liberals alone, 73% agreed.

In a reflection of the bitter partisan bickering, 57% of conservatives blamed liberals for the pernicious climate and a whopping 71% of liberals blamed conservatives.

Blame game rejected

But there was some measure of agreement across the political divide that the tragic incident could not have been prevented, with a total of 40% of US voters agreeing.

Among liberals only, 32% said the shooting was unavoidable, compared to 42% for moderates and conservatives each.

"Americans seem to be rejecting the blame game for the Arizona shooting. By far, the largest number thinks this tragedy could not have been prevented," Quinnipiac University Polling Institute assistant director Peter Brown said in a statement.

The survey found the attack captured the public's attention, with 59% of respondents saying they are paying a lot of attention to the story and 26% saying they are paying some attention to it.

"Those are unusually high numbers," said Brown. "Clearly it has struck a chord with the American people."

The survey was conducted on Monday and Tuesday among 581 registered voters. It had a margin of error of +- 4.1%.