Sunday, March 19, 2017
Why Public Opinion Surveys Require Large Bags of Salt
Pew’s 2016 survey asked about bans on high capacity magazines and “assault-style weapons.” In spite of several decades of mass murders often inaccurately reported as committed with such weapons, only 54% supported such bans. Yet Gallup in 2016 found only 34% supported such bans. Regardless of which is correct (and the enormous disparity on this question raises serious questions about the validity of the polling methods), the gun culture includes a substantial part of American society.
Other surveys seem to indicate declining gun ownership. The National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey reports a decline in gun ownership from 47.0% to 31.0% from 1973 to 2014. While the percentage refusing to answer the question rose from 1.0% to 3.2% during that period, this is not enough to explain the 39% in the 2016 Gallup survey and 31.0% in the NORC poll.
 NORC, “Trends in Gun Ownership in the United States, 1972-2014,” http://www.norc.org/PDFs/GSS%20Reports/GSS_Trends%20in%20Gun%20Ownership_US_1972-2014.pdf, last accessed March 7, 2017.
 Pew Research Center, “Opinions on Gun Policy and the 2016 Campaign,” http://www.people-press.org/files/2016/08/08-26-16-Gun-policy-release.pdf, last accessed March 7, 2017.
 Art Swift, “In U.S., Support for Assault Weapons Ban at Record Low,” http://www.gallup.com/poll/196658/support-assault-weapons-ban-record-low.aspx, last accessed March 7, 2017.