Why the General Social Survey is gun control advocates favorite survey
A decreasing number of American gun owners own two-thirds of the nation's guns and as many as one-third of the guns on the planet -- even though they account for less than 1% of the world's population, according to a CNN analysis of gun ownership data.
The data, collected by the Injury Prevention Journal, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the General Social Survey and population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, found that the number of U.S. households with guns has declined, but current gun owners are gathering more guns. . . .Yet, the GSS survey shows a large drop that you don't see in other surveys. According to Gallup, in October 2011, they wrote: "At 47%, reported gun ownership is the highest it has been in nearly two decades -- a finding that may be related to Americans' dampened support for gun-control laws." Here is the Gallup survey data since 1991.
I have been concerned about the GSS survey for some time. Here is something that I wrote in my 2003 book The Bias Against Guns.
A few years ago, while I was doing research at the University of Chicago, I had lunch with Tom Smith, who is the director of the General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC). This private organization conducts many important national surveys for the government as well as other clients. During lunch Tom mentioned how important he thought the General Social Survey was. He felt the large drop in gun ownership implied by his survey would “make it easier for politicians to do the right thing on guns” and pass more restrictive regulations. His surveys have traditionally shown one of the lowest gun ownership rates among any of the surveys: for example, almost 20 percentage points lower than recent polling by John Zogby. . . .Tom Smith is still the director of the GSS. It is interesting to note that both the JAMA study this week as well as Tom Smith have received funding from the Joyce Foundation, which is well known for its gun control advocacy (or see here). I am definitely not saying that the Joyce Foundation funding altered their views, but just that Joyce knows the individuals who are on their side of the debate.