Pollsters trying to cover their backsides?

I note with cynicism the latest Pew poll that indicates support for gun rights has ‘flipped’.

For most of the 1990s and the subsequent decade, a substantial majority of Americans believed it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun owners’ rights. But in December 2014, the balance of opinion flipped: For the first time, more Americans say that protecting gun rights is more important than controlling gun ownership, 52% to 46%.

. . .

Over the past 25 years or so, there has been a divergence between American perceptions about crime and actual crime rates. And those who worried about crime had favored stricter gun control; now, they tend to desire keeping the laws as they are or loosening gun control. In short, we are at a moment when most Americans believe crime rates are rising and when most believe gun ownership – not gun control – makes people safer.

In the 1990s, the rate of violent crimes plummeted by more than half nationwide. Public perceptions tracked right along, with the share saying there was more crime in the U.S. over the past year falling from 87% in 1993 to just 41% by 2001.

In the new century, however, there’s been a disconnect. A majority of Americans (63%) said in a Gallup survey last year that crime was on the rise, despite crime statistics holding near 20-year lows.

. . .

And among the public at large, the latest Gallup survey finds that 63% of Americans now say having a gun in the home makes it a safer place compared with 30% who say it makes a home more dangerous. Fifteen years ago, more said the presence of a gun made a home more dangerous (51%) than safer (35%).

There’s more at the link.

In the first place, I don’t believe that polls have accurately measured public support for gun control at all.  Just look at NICS background checks on firearms sales over the past couple of decades (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format).  Do that many background checks each year (which exclude most private sales) indicate declining support for firearms ownership?  I don’t think so . . . and over the past decade the figures have been on a solid upward trajectory.  I can only presume that pollsters were asking questions of the wrong people – perhaps East Coast liberals who didn’t own many guns and weren’t interested in doing so.  In the circles in which I move, that’s hardly the case!

Pew speculates that there’s a ‘disconnect’ between declining crime statistics and public perceptions of the reality of crime.  Again, I don’t believe this – rather, I believe the statistics are rigged.  Revelations about police departments under-reporting crime for political reasons are legion.  Check them for yourself.   I think many urban dwellers have woken up to this reality (probably through increased personal exposure to crime, or having a friend or relative become a crime victim).  They no longer believe the statistics, and are arming themselves accordingly.

I regard this latest Pew poll as a fairly transparent attempt by the pollsters to correct a long-standing statistical ‘skewing’ in their polling.  I’m inclined to think that ‘skewing’ was deliberate on their part, to support a partisan political agenda.  Others may be more charitable.



  1. I suspect the numbers are quite a bit higher than the NICS count indicates.

    Under the Brady Law a number of states do not require a NICS check for sales in which the purchaser has a valid CWP. I think that's about 16 states (I need to check the ATF web site to be sure), and at last count there were over 11 million CWP holders. And, while a NICS check is valid only for a single transaction, that transaction may be for multiple guns.

  2. Hey Peter,

    if somebody ask me in a poll" Do you own a gun?" This follows the " Do you support the 2nd amendment?" I will say "no" it is none of their business….also I treat the polls like kryptonite…

  3. Balto. Police have been infamous for fudging crime stats. And people ARE arming over fear of crime — crimes committed by government agents, either on they're own hook or on off-the-book orders to please statist leaders. The fangs came out after Sandy Hook, when they thought it would let them push greater restricions, even ban ARs. But 2-3 million AR owners, (now 4-5), widespread CCW holders and fear over "Fast & Furious" scandals has turned folks our way. We still need vigleance, however, more than ever.

  4. When you hear "polling is an art", that is a polite way of saying
    that the outcome is driven partly by the phrasing of the questions,
    but mostly by the weighting of the sub-populations included in the
    polling sample.

    You will notice that "the answers actually given" was absent?
    Those are mere window dressing.

  5. I also got a good laugh out of a "recent Poll" that showed the number of american household owning guns has decreased.
    I would be willing to bet money that the actual fact is that the number of american households that will "admit" they have guns has decreased dramatically

  6. I would be willing to bet money that the actual fact is that the number of american households that will "admit" they have guns has decreased dramatically

    No thanks

    I always hang up as soon as I hear that it is a poll since I don't trust them.

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