Margie Omero’s Open Letter to Pollsters Seeks to Control Gun Control Debate

Margie Omero [above] is a Democratic pollster and president of Momentum Analysis. She’s well-up on the dark art of creating a poll that delivers the results her client seeks. And Marge is pissed off that her competitors keep publishing poll results which show that most Americans don’t support gun control. So the Big O has written an open letter for the  Huffington Post exhorting her colleagues to go all George Orwell and literally change the “terms” of the “gun control debate.” It’s a clever piece of writing that educates by example; ceding the right to keep (but not bear) arms and calling The Mayors Against Illegal Guns a “bi-partisan group.” In the interests of keeping our enemies closer, make the jump for Omero’s slick sickness . . .

“These days, the gun debate is not about whether one has the right to own a gun, but about how to balance those existing rights against the need to prevent gun violence. But while the debate has changed, polling questions have not. Pew released some tracking this week showing movement to the left on gay marriage, along with movement to the right on guns. However, the Pew question on “gun control,” whose wording goes back about twenty years, is both over-broad and an anachronism. And many outlets use similar language . . .

(Disclosure: my firm, Momentum Analysis, has done numerous projects for the bipartisan group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. You can read my previous posts on guns here and here, and on my work for the group herehere and here.)

Gun “Control” is an anachronism. Look at the exact wording of the Pew question: “What do you think is more important — to protect the right of Americans to own guns, or to control gun ownership?” This question uses the language of the gun lobby (rights), not the language of those working for stronger gun laws (safety). And it pits a right versus simply “control” for its own sake.

I don’t assume nefarious motives on Pew’s part. When this question was first written, “control” was indeed part of the gun debate vernacular. But it is no longer. Using the word “control” is a poor description of that side’s position. (While the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence was once called Handgun Control, Inc., the group hasn’t had` “control” in its name in over ten years.)

What if there was decades of tracking of something like “what do you think is more important — to protect the rights of gun owners, or to protect the safety of everyone from gun violence?” Results would, to be sure, be different from the current question.

“Gun control” is overly broad. What do respondents think of when asked whether they support “gun control”? Are they thinking about a ban on all guns, including hunting rifles? Or are they thinking about preventing people accused of domestic violence from getting a gun at a gun show without a background check and then bringing that gun across state lines? We simply don’t know. Not that a broad question on attitudes toward gun laws can’t be useful, but we should simply understand its limitations.

By comparison, a gay marriage question is more straightforward. While there are, of course, nuances to the gay marriage debate (a civil union alternative, recognition by other states, etc.), we can be reasonably sure all participants are responding to roughly the same concept. A question about “gun control” could mean just about anything.

All outlets could use a gun question rewrite. Pew is not the only polling outlet using outdated language. CBS, ABC/Washington PostTime Magazine, and Gallup all have used the word “control” in their recent national surveys. In many of these questions, the word “control” can easily be cut, such as in the ABC/Washington Post question, “Do you favor or oppose stricter gun control laws in this country?” However, I prefer a three-way question about whether laws should be made stronger, weaker, or “kept the same.” Gallup, NBC/WSJ, CBS/NYT, and Time Magazine have all asked a three-way question, although the latter two, again, include the word “control.” (The Polling Report has a good collection of gun questions across outlets.)

But pollsters should also follow-up a broad question with questions about specific, relevant proposals up for debate. Gallup, as I wrote here, continues to ask decades-old questions on a handgun ban, producing headlines like this one. Many other outlets, such as ABC/Washington Post and CBS, continue to test handgun bans and high-capacity magazine bans that are simply not part of the legislative debate. As ourpolling has shown, huge numbers support recent proposals to strengthen gun laws by requiring background checks for all gun purchases, or allowing states to decide concealed gun permit requirements laws for themselves.

For some time, Americans have recognized private gun ownership as a right; the debate is now about how (or whether!) to keep guns out of dangerous hands. Polling outlets should reflect this change by adjusting their broad question, and adding (or changing) their specific proposal questions. By not revisiting their question language, polling outlets are actually influencing the debate by suggesting there is less support for stronger gun laws than actually exists.”

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

40 Responses to Margie Omero’s Open Letter to Pollsters Seeks to Control Gun Control Debate

  1. avatarTTACer says:

    “Disclosure: my firm, Momentum Analysis, has done numerous projects for the bipartisan group Mayors Against Illegal Guns.”

    lol

  2. avatarNot Too Eloquent says:

    She’s just networking for business for her company. At least she’s semi-cute.

  3. avatarRalph says:

    Orwellian “doublespeak” was not a fictional construction. It’s politics as usual.

    Clever demagogues don’t need firepower to control the masses — they just need words and phrases. “Assault rifle” and “assault clip” are two of the more infamous and insidious. Who can possibly be in favor of assault? “Common sense gun laws” also comes to mind. Who could possibly opposed common sense? And who can forget “cop killer bullets,” “Saturday Night Special,” and my own personal favorite, the “sniper rifle” — which is any scoped bolt action rifle more powerful than .22 caliber.

    Control the dialog and you control the people.

    • avatarTom says:

      This being Orwellian double speak is actually what struck me about this article as well. Sounds like the Ministry of Truth is having credibility problems so a change of semantics are in order.

  4. avatarJohn says:

    If you can’t win the argument, change the language.

    • avatarWildWest says:

      The methodology is when losing the argument, change the language, if that doesn’t work, start yelling a lot, if this still isn’t working claim racism. Lets not forget changing the subject, supplying false information and attacking the false information… What else have I forgotten?

  5. avatarDerek says:

    ^^^
    John and Ralph +1
    Summed up perfectly.

  6. avatarDavid W. says:

    One thing often absent from the dialogue (I tend to dislike that current as it is currently overused and comes off as smarmy) is the concept of inalienable rights. It does not really matter what the majority of Americans think on this issue. The Bill of Rights is the law of the land; the only way the will of the majority matters on this subject is if they can get their elected representatives to pass a constitutional amendment. Even then we would still have the right (“inalienable”), its just then the supreme law of the land would not recognize that right.

    Further missing from the “dialogue” is the notion of weapons control for the military and police. If the other side was serious about limiting violence and making the world safer (and getting guns out of the hands of civilians) then they would pour the majority of their effort in reducing the stockpile of arms possessed by the militaries of the world. Those weapons trickle down into the hands of regular joes. Even when they do not, many of the guns produced by weapon makers are based on, or are similar to, a model that is/was used by a military.

    Honestly, how many people on this site own a gun that is or was in military service, or is based on what that is or was?

    • avatarvirtualjohn says:

      Many of these people have an utter inability to understand the concept of inalienable rights granted by God because they do not believe in God.
      I think, self-proclaimed atheists and agnostics aside, many who claim to believe in God do not view God as their Creator. They act as if even if God created the Heavens and the Earth, on the seventh day he rested; and he is still resting.
      With no Creator, how could anyone endow us with anything?

      • avatarBob says:

        Then use the term “natural right” or “human right” or even “natural human right”. A natural right or a human right is something that comes to us because we are Human Beings. The point is that because of the type of being you are (a human being), there are certain things that you naturally need and one of those is the right to self-defense. Let’s call that a “right”. A government can’t take away that “right”, because it is so much a part of the fabric of our humanity that people will fight to the death to keep it.

        A government can only limit your ability to exercise a “right” – People will not let the government take away the right. If you are attacked, it is human nature to (every person will) try to defend yourself. If they take away the newspapers, TV, radio, and internet, then people will spread information and opinion by word of mouth or other means. The same for freedom of religion, the privacy of your home & person, freedom from self-incrimination, and all the others in our Bill Of Rights.

        Using the terms “natural right” or “human right” says the same general thing as “god-given right”, that a right is something that belongs to every human being and can’t be taken away. However, it leaves the Source of our humanity (God) out of the discussion, thereby making the conversation acceptable to atheists, agnostics, etc.

        • avatarMALTHUS says:

          “Using the terms ‘natural right’ or ‘human right’ says the same general thing as ‘god-given right’, that a right is something that belongs to every human being and can’t be taken away. However, it leaves the Source of our humanity (God) out of the discussion, thereby making the conversation acceptable to atheists, agnostics, etc.”

          I beg to differ.

          Neither man or nature is immutable. Therefore rights predicated on either man or nature are subject to mutation, alteration and revision.

          G*d is unchangeable, as is His Law. His law-order cannot be abrogated by man’s legislative fiat or the brute workings of nature.

    • avatarJoe Grine says:

      “The Bill of Rights is the law of the land; the only way the will of the majority matters on this subject is if they can get their elected representatives to pass a constitutional amendment.”

      Although you are correct in theory, you are unfortunately wrong in practice. While the Bill of Rights may be the law of the land, it is the interpretation of those rights that really matters. Right now, you are only Supreme Court justice away from having no (or very limited) “individual” gun rights. Heller left a loophole big enough to drive a truck through, and you should have no doubt that the progressives aim to take advanatage of it in the future. Obama has already had the opportunity to replace two of the retiring “liberal” justices – if he gets to choose a replacement for a conservative seat we could all be very screwed. All of folks that think that Obama will not seek to limit gun rights simply have not thought this issue through.

    • David, I am confused by your post but I want to make the following point for the anti-gunners who don’t know anything about guns. Almost all bolt action rifles are in some way related to the German Mauser from WWI. One of the most popular styles of handguns is the 1911. Guess when the 1911 was introduced? One of the most popular styles of modern rifles are base on the AR. The 50 cal. was was developed for the civilian market and then picked up by the military. The list is endless of guns used by the military and then adapted to the civilian market or vice versa .

      • avatarTom says:

        Agree. Most gun designs usually started as a military requirement or project.
        Pump Shotguns were developed to combat Wild West Indians.
        Colt Peacemaker and Colt 1911 were developed for the military. 1911 grew out of the Morro insurrection.
        Lever action rifles were for Cavalry Units.
        Bolt action rifles developed out of late 19th century European Army requirements.
        Assault Rifles grew out of the Wehrmacht in WWII.
        DA/SA grew out of pistols for the military after WWI.
        Submachine guns grew out of WWI.

  7. avatarDJ says:

    A side bonus: if you can get the older polling companies to change or drop the gun control questions they have been using for the last 20+ years, it would automatically limit any claims and all records that Americans are moving toward LESS gun control. Virtually all news/analysis organizations agree that dissimilar poll questions are not considered comparable for long-term trend analysis, so all the progress on the decades-long gun rights vs. gun control battle would evaporate overnight, providing a clean slate for the “controllers” (er, I mean “safety advocates”).

  8. avatarAharon says:

    “However, I prefer a three-way question about whether laws should be made stronger, weaker, or “kept the same.”
    — Her choice of the words and contexts is manipulative. Who wants to answer the question with the negative ‘looked down upon word’ ‘weaker’ in a society that values strength? How about: “do you support ‘strengthening’ the ability of private citizens to use guns in self-defense?”

    She speaks in front of groups such as ‘Walmart Moms’ and has written about the ‘Gender Voting Gap’ even when more women vote than men. Welcome to the Nanny State.

  9. avatarST says:

    “Hello, im from the Government, and I want to make sure you hand over anything that launches a bullet”.

    (go **** yourself ,says the Average Joe)

    “Hello, im from the government, and we’re here to prevent the future deaths of children and murder victims using selective enforcement and select property seizures related to the goal of improving the public safety metric for your area . Could you please direct us to your gunsafe?”

    (uhhhhh….do I have to?)

    “We have guns.Ive noticed you have nice dogs in the yard…shame if anything happened to them , you being charged as a terrorist and all for not letting us in….”

    (Fine)

  10. avatarDJ says:

    Of course, there is a HUGE side bonus: if they can get the older polling companies to change or drop the gun control questions they have been using for the last 20+ years, it would automatically limit any claims and all records that Americans are moving toward LESS gun control. Virtually all news/analysis organizations agree that dissimilar poll questions are not considered comparable for long-term trend analysis, so all the progress on the decades-long gun rights vs. gun control battle would evaporate overnight, providing a clean slate for the “controllers” (er, I mean “safety advocates”).

  11. avatarDavid W. says:

    “With no Creator, how could anyone endow us with anything?”

    That is so “nail on the head” its scary. Anyone who takes an interest in the men who founded this nation would know that they believed in God. The (vast) majority had a profession of Christian faith even if some of their personal beliefs were quirky or even heretical. It is not by accident that the least religiously minded of the founding fathers – Jefferson and Franklin are often the ones most quoted.

    The point of the above is their theocentric worldview shaped everything they did including the U.S. Constitution. In their collective minds, “law” was something one got in-line with, not something created for merely utilitarian reasons.

  12. avatarFrank says:

    That lady makes a very good job at illustrating why FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS BITCH!!!

  13. avatarJoe says:

    What Im takin away from this is the following.
    1. The left is actually putting some thought into their arguments instead of all this “save the children!” or “Guns kill people” (this is scary) The left is bad enough without them using their brain.
    2. This is a call to action for those of us who love personal freedoms, we must get the word out! talk to the people around you get other people involved, To many Pro 2A guys and gals have this “protect me and mine” attitude. WE ARE ONE NATION!
    3. The “sheeple” will continue to remain in that mindset if we dont educate them.
    4. For every hour you spend on the range, reloading, CCW’ing/ open Carrying, take 5 min and say a prayer for our nation. ( read Gen. Eisenhowers D-DAY Letter, look up some of George Washingtons Letters). These great men understood where our strength comes from.

  14. avatarGS650G says:

    Nice smile she has there, very disarming. Pun intended.

  15. avatarMALTHUS says:

    “[W]hat do you think is more important — to protect the rights of gun owners, or to protect the safety of everyone from gun violence?”

    Better: Which is to be preferred, individual liberty or collective security? Please note that Ben Franklin has already answered this question in favor of liberty.

  16. avatarBob says:

    Read these two reports by JPFO. The first thing we need to do is understand our adversaries. Then we need to gently change the ones we can, and strongly rebutt the ones we can’t change.

    This article needs to be rebutted. When our enemy says something using loaded innuendo, we need to rephrase it and give it back to them. (A few of you did that in your posts above.) Don’t let them trap us with their loaded words and phrases.

    http://jpfo.org/filegen-a-m/jp_seven.htm

    http://jpfo.org/filegen-n-z/ragingagainstselfdefense.htm

  17. avatarDavid W. says:

    George,

    I agree w/ you. My point is that the anti-gunners spend 95% or their energy going after individuals who own weapons and turn a blind eye to the myriads of government organizations that own far more destructive weapons. Their agenda shows. The very governments they want to enlist or use in the fight to prohibit weapons ownership themselves own some serious destructive hardware. That hardware often makes its way into the hands of the very civilians they want to disarm. The irony or paradox is it takes a guy w/ a gun to even attempt to take gun away.

  18. avatarQajaqon says:

    Humans have been seeking freedom, and debating and acting on ‘human rights’ since before 2012 bce to this day, 2012 ace. Humans will debate and act on human rights until they are no longer on earth. And it is “Human Rights”, as humans have not always believed in a ‘god’. The debate is always about control, both real and imagined, the key trick is to know which is which.

    Key # 1 for those in the USA: The Constitution and The Bill of Rights are meant to be your protection from ourselves. And we still, after all this time, are willing to commit the greatest of deceits…….

    subjegation of human liberty.

    And the key for this woman is education: What her/our rights really are. That a weapon/guns/arms do NOT kill humans. Humans actions and life kill humans. Educate……..

    “De Oppresso Liber”

    “Nos Defions”

  19. avatarJOE MATAFOME says:

    I’ve always believed that “GUN CONTROL” meant hitting your target, all this other stuff is just plain silly. Ralph’s right on target as usual.

  20. avatarAharon says:

    I’m all for strengthening gun laws. All adult American Citizens of sound mind and body should be required by law to own a long gun and a handgun.

  21. avatarFrank says:

    Yeah I disagree with the writers whole premiss. Control is the whole issue and all the “gun grabbers” care about. Controlling our freedom and controlling weather or not we can defend it against ALL enemies both foreign and domestic. One of the reason we are never directly attacked on land here by a foreign Government is simple, every American who hunts or carries a firearm would make up the worlds largest standing military. all other rights are protected by the second.

  22. avatarHal says:

    “So in other words, because we are sore losers, we will word the QUESTIONS so that they are both manipulative and play on peoples’ fears rather than their logic. I am so smart… as my smug picture no doubt conveys. Sigh… I love me.”

    • avatarChris says:

      I would argue that that’s the point of a loaded question, regardless of one’s political angle.

      Calling it gun “control” does indeed convey fear. But let’s see her explain how a gun law would not control guns.

      • avatarjkp says:

        To be fair to the lady, gun control laws have singularly failed to control guns — absent a fascist state apparatus as in Cuba or North Korea.

  23. avatarsoccerchainsaw says:

    Rest assured that polling questions will come around to Ms. Omero’s suggestion:
    {What if there was decades of tracking of something like “what do you think is more important — to protect the rights of gun owners, or to protect the safety of everyone from gun violence?” Results would, to be sure, be different from the current question.}
    What are you (readers of TTAG) going to do when you get this question in a poll? Personally, I typically don’t participate in polls since I don’t know who is polling or why. If you’re going to participate I would suggest that the best answer is that we cannot choose one over the other, they are mutually dependent. The question presents a false dicotomy. We now know that more gun control = more violence. The question is basically nonsense, you might as well try to separate the moon from the tides.

    • The lady has a good point about the way “control” has become synonymous with gun bans and to many people that sounds like a dirty word.

  24. avatartwency says:

    “What if there was decades of tracking of something like “what do you think is more important — to protect the rights of gun owners, or to protect the safety of everyone from gun violence?” Results would, to be sure, be different from the current question.”

    What if there was decades of tracking of something like “what do you think is more important — to protect the right of all Americans to keep and bear arms, or to allay the concerns of some citizens who fear that guns will be misused?” Results would, to be sure, be different from the proposed alternative question.

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