Republicans and Democrats have starkly different interpretations of what the recent mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub represents. While 79% of Republicans view it primarily as an act of Islamic terrorism, the majority of Democrats, 60%, see it as an act of domestic gun violence. Given Republicans' more lopsided views, Americans as a whole tilt toward describing it as a terrorist act.
The results are based on a June 14-15 Gallup poll, conducted days after a Muslim U.S. citizen, Omar Mateen, perpetrated the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at an Orlando nightclub. Mateen had been listed on the federal government's terrorism watch list in 2013 and 2014, but was later removed. While both President Barack Obama and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton described the incident as an act of terror, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump went further, tying the act to radical Islam.
Democrats' interpretation of the Orlando shooting may be influenced by Democratic leaders' calls for stricter gun laws in recent days. This was exemplified by a Democratic-led filibuster on the Senate floor Wednesday and Thursday, which ended after Republican leaders agreed to take up proposals on background checks and steps to prevent terrorists from obtaining guns.
Trump's statements on the event may be contributing to Republicans' views of the Orlando incident as an act of Islamic terrorism, but Republicans' tendency to define it as terrorism may also stem from their greater concern about terrorism in general.
Independents are evenly divided as to whether the Orlando shooting was an act of Islamic terrorism (44%) or domestic gun violence (42%).
Whether the Orlando incident was inspired by Islamic terrorism or the actions of a killer able to obtain guns is a debate that cannot be easily settled and, regardless, does nothing to diminish the tragedy of the event. But it is clear that Americans' political views influence how they interpret the tragedy and, by extension, shape their views of the policies leaders should pursue to prevent similar incidents.
By the way, right now the FBI isn't calling this a terror attack, and hasn't been able to substantiate Mateen's connection to ISIS.
That doesn't seem to matter to Republicans, who will be calling this an Islamic terror attack until they day they die.
In other words, this isn't "both sides view the event differently" as much as it is "Democrats are seeing one thing and Republicans are making up another out of whole cloth." Reality's liberal bias, you see.