12/20/2012 03:38 EST | Updated 02/19/2013 05:12 EST

The Nanos Number: Americans Favour Gun Registration

Students Zoe Bell, 12, left, and her sister, Sophie 9, join Los Angeles area clergy, religious leaders and citizens join in an interfaith candlelight prayer vigil to end to gun violence outside Los Angeles City Hall Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Nik Nanos digs beneath the numbers with CBC News Network's Power & Politics host Evan Solomon to get to the political, economic and social forces that shape our lives.

This week: Is there more appetite for gun control in U.S. than we realize?

U.S. President Barack Obama is promising to act urgently on new gun control measures, after the horrific shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children and six adults were gunned down on Dec. 14.

Obama promised action in the hours after the tragedy and now he has set up a task force, lead by Vice-President Joe Biden. Obama wants concrete proposals by January.

Gun control in the United States is a polarizing issue, but Nik Nanos says when you look at public opinion on specific initiatives when it comes to gun control, the numbers are surprising.

A Pew Research Centre Poll of 1,101 Americans adults, conducted July 26 to 29 shows that 47 per cent of Americans say controlling gun ownership is more important, compared to 46 per cent who say protecting gun ownership rights is more important.

It's essentially a dead heat, but Nanos points out it also looks very similar to the election results in November.

"You see an absolute divide when you ask Americans at a very high level how they feel in terms of whether there should or should not be gun control," Nanos told host Evan Solomon on Power & Politics.

But the picture changes if you dig deeper into the specific gun control initiatives.

According to a CNN/ORC poll, 96 per cent of Americans favour background checks for gun owners. Ninety-one per cent say felons or the mentally ill should not be able to own guns. Seventy-six per cent of Americans favour a requirement to register guns. And there is a split — 45 per cent in favour and 54 per cent opposed — on limiting the number of guns an individual can own.

"What this shows is when you get beyond what people feel about gun control or no gun control, when you ask them specifically about registering firearms, that it's a political slam dunk," Nanos said. "I wouldn't be surprised if there are very similar numbers like that in Canada, in terms of supporting gun registry."

The Canadian government just scrapped the long-gun registry. It was a polarizing debate, but the Conservatives campaigned on the promise to eliminate the registry and won. But Nanos says the Conservatives attacked the cost of the long gun registry, and that might be a lesson Obama could learn if he wants to introduce something similar.

"Yes, Americans support registration of firearms, however if this looks like a massive bureaucratic undertaking, if it looks like something that will be very expensive, it could make for a little more bumpy road when we get past the emotion and anger that people have at the most recent shooting," Nanos said.

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