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Poll: Women outpace men in support for stricter gun laws, immigration reform

Women are a key driver of support for legislation overhauling the nation's gun and immigration laws, according to new data in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, just as Congress prepares to take up major legislation on both of those issues.

Women outpace men in their support for stricter gun laws and immigration reform that provides undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, data which becomes more salient in light of the Republican Party’s effort to regain its footing with women voters after last fall’s elections.

View full poll results here

The gender gap is most pronounced when it comes to the issue of stricter gun controls, legislation on which the Senate voted to begin consideration this Thursday.

Sixty-five percent of women said they favor stricter laws governing the sale of firearms, versus just 5 percent who favor less strict laws. Twenty-seven percent of women said the law should be kept as it is now. By comparison, 44 percent of men favor stricter gun laws, while 41 percent said laws should stay the same.

(Also of note: Self-described mothers favor stricter gun laws even more overwhelmingly; 70 percent of mothers with children in the home said that laws governing firearm sales should be tightened.)

While the gap is less pronounced, women respondents in this month’s NBC/WSJ poll were more sympathetic to arguments in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.

Women favor immigration reform that allows a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants by a 36-point margin. Sixty-seven percent of women said they would favor such a proposal, versus 31 percent who would oppose those reforms. Men also favor immigration reform, but by a slightly slimmer, 60 percent to 38 percent spread.

When explained that a pathway to citizenship would involve paying a fine, any back taxes, passing a security background check and taking other measures, men and women would favor immigration reform at roughly the same levels: Seventy-eight percent of women favor such a proposal, versus 74 percent of men.

The gender gap also extends to some high-profile social issues at the forefront of American political debate at the moment, like same-sex marriage.

In the poll, women favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, 56 percent to 40 percent. Men, by contrast, favor allowing same-sex marriages, 50 percent to 43 percent. (That's a relatively seismic shift for men; in the March 2004 NBC/WSJ poll, just 26 percent of men favored gay marriage, while 52 percent opposed.)

The poll was conducted April 5-8, and has a 4.3 percent margin of error for the subsample of women, and a 4.5 percent margin of error for the subsample of men.