A 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 Arizona 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, a Democrat, was among 20 lawmakers targeted in campaign material by Sarah Palin, the conservative icon and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee.
Conservatives have bristled in recent days at suggestions that there was a political motive in the shootings. Investigators have said they believe that the attack was carried out by a lone suspect, Jared L. Loughner, 22, 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent to 19 percent. Democrats were more narrowly split, with 49 percent rejecting a role for political rhetoric and 42 percent accepting it. Independents rejected a political narrative by 56 percent to 33 percent.
The poll was based on interviews with 673 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.