4/27/2013

Remember those claims that 90% of Americans wanted the Senate background check bill to pass?: Well, it was clearly wrong


Despite assurances by the likes of Nate Silver that these are solid polls showing "Overwhelming majorities of 80 to 90 percent of the public say they favor background checks," I have previously noted my skepticism of these claims.  To me, it wasn't too surprising that the Senate voted down the gun control bill about 10 days ago.  My concern is that people were really just being asked about whether they wanted to keep criminals from getting guns, not about the particular legislation being voted on by the Senate.  Well, now there is another poll by the PEW Research Center that I think is much more accurate.  It asks people whether they are happy that the Senate gun control bill was stopped.  Apparently, both Republicans and Independents are generally happy that it was stopped.  My guess is that Republicans should pay a lot more attention to what Independents and Republicans wanted than Democrats who would never have voted for the Republicans anyway.  It looks to me that Republicans voted the way that their constituents wanted.  So Republicans shouldn't really care that among all voters the poll showed support of 47 to 39 percent.  They should look at the results by political affiliation.


Many, such as the New York Times, paint a picture of Senators who both simultaneously opposed the will of 90 percent of their voters and at the same time quake in fear of the NRA. Here is a piece by Joe Nocera at the New York Times on April 19th:

The four Democrats — along with many Republicans — quake in fear of the National Rifle AssociationIn 1994, Baucus voted in favor of the assault rifle ban — and then nearly lost his re-election bid. He never again stood up to the N.R.A. Yes, his phones were undoubtedly jammed this week. Still, it seemed to me that his unanswered phone was a potent symbol. I could almost picture him cowering in his office, waiting for us to stop asking why he sold the country down the river. . . .
Note in Baucus' case, he is retiring and yet he still voted against the so-called "universal background check" bill.  Might Mr. Nocera re-examine his piece?

The one US Senator who gun control advocates claim has been hurt by her opposition to the Senate gun control bill is Kelly Ayotte (see also here, though one will note that six months and a lot of other things have occurred since the last approval rating poll for Senator Ayotte).  Yet, it is interesting that the Democratic controlled state House of Representatives in New Hampshire isn't passing new gun control either.  From the New Hampshire Union Leader:

"NH State House Unmoved by Newtown Shootings" was the headline of a Patch.com story about a recent gathering of "area gun violence experts," hosted by the Portsmouth Democratic Party (of course) and including a representative of States United to Prevent Gun Violence, at the Portsmouth Public Library. 
A more accurate headline would have read, "Portsmouth Gun Control Panel Unmoved by Reality." 
According to the story, the "gun lobby" is so strong in New Hampshire that it will be next to impossible for anti-gun politicians to pass "universal background checks," allegedly making massacres like the Newtown tragedy more likely in this state. . . .
A collection of polls on gun issues is available here.

Other tangentially related material

By the way, the Nate Silver analysis of how Senators would vote on the Manchin-Toomey bill has some major problems, he uses a very unreliable measure of gun ownership from Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (it shows among the lowest gun ownership rates of any survey that I know of).  If you use a bad survey, you get a lot of noise and it makes it more likely that you won't get a statistically significant result.  I also like the way he runs a regression after the fact rather than predicting how people were going to vote before the Senate vote.  Letting him play around with different factors (we have no idea how many regressions that he ran before he decided to report the one that he did) makes the predictive power of that regression pretty useless.

UPDATE: Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) claims to find drop in support for five Senators, but for some of these polls the time since the last poll has been over six months, though a couple of others have just been since February.   


UPDATE: Obama's approval rating on guns has also fallen.  As one headline put it, "Obama's Approval Rating on Gun Control Plummets."  Here is part of the June 4th article:
Nearly half of voters think President Obama's doing a poor job at handling gun control, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released Tuesday. Only 37 percent of voters give Obama positive reviews for the way he's handling gun control as opposed to the 46 percent of voters who give him a poor rating.  
The president's poor approval numbers have been climbing over the past few months. They were 34 percent in February and have climbed 13 points since then. . . .

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3 Comments:

Blogger William Fagan said...

WHAT??? Can you just say it in English so us dumb gun owners can understand it????? Thank You.

4/28/2013 7:09 AM  
Blogger Blaine Holzer said...

I'm sure that 90% or more of us would like to keep guns from criminals and people with serious mental problems. So what? I approve of motherhood and apple pie too. Does that mean that if they labeled a bill "The Motherhood & Apple Pie" bill then a senator should just "do something" and vote for it without reading it? The senators were not voting on a "general idea" they were voting on a specific bill. Given that Obama's goal (as far as I can make out) is to eliminate gun ownership in the U.S. as part of his "legacy" - then thank God a few senators had the courage to say "NO"!
Molon Labe!

4/28/2013 3:32 PM  
Blogger Suburban said...

Kelly Ayotte was featured on the 3 Gun Nation TV show shooting evil black pistol, rifle, and shotgun, smiling and apparently having a great time.

5/01/2013 1:47 AM  

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