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.
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%.