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Most Americans don't see link between Arizona shootings, political rhetoric, poll finds

A CBS News poll says that 57% of those surveyed reject a connection between the strident tone of recent political debate and the attack that killed six and seriously wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. However, the results differed sharply depending on respondents' political identifications.

January 11, 2011|By Michael Muskal | Los Angeles Times

A sizable majority of Americans said they did not believe that harsh political rhetoric was the reason a gunman opened fire over the weekend in Tucson, killing six and wounding 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, according to a CBS News poll released Tuesday.

The finding comes as Republicans and Democrats have sparred over whether  recent heated political rhetoric may have been a factor in the shootings. Giffords was among 20 lawmakers targeted in campaign literature by Sarah Palin, the conservative icon who may be considering a presidential run in 2012. 

 Conservatives have bristled in recent days at suggestions that there was any political motive in the shootings. Investigators have said they believe the attack was carried out by a lone suspect,  Jared Lee Loughner, who faces five counts of murder and attempted murder of federal employees. Loughner has expressed distrust of government and personal animosity toward Giffords, according to investigators.

According to the CBS News poll, 57% of those surveyed said the strident tones that have marked the national political debate in recent years had nothing to do with the Saturday shooting of Giffords and 19 others at a supermarket where the congresswoman had gone to meet constituents. The poll found that 32% said political language played a part.

But as with many other issues, the results were sharply different depending on the respondents’ political identifications.

Republicans overwhelmingly rejected the political narrative, by 69% to 19%. Democrats were more narrowly split, with 49% rejecting a role for political rhetoric while 42% accepting it. Independents rejected a political narrative by 56% to 33%.

The poll was based on interviews with 673 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

michael.muskal@latimes.com

Twitter.com/LATimesmuskal

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