Anti-Gun Control Senators Facing Backlash? I Don’t Think So . . .

Senators Manchin (left) and Toomey (courtesy smartgunlaws.org)

In the wake of the failed gun control legislation in the U.S. Senate, Democrats are pissed. And as I pointed out previously, the reason is that none of them actually bothered to read the bill. All they saw was “universal background checks” and that sounded good to them and satisfied their desire to “do something.” So it makes sense that a Democratic-backed polling organization would be jumping for joy to see that Senators who voted against the background check proposal appear to have their popularity numbers dropping. But are they really?

Public Policy Polling would have you think so, as their latest press release gleefully details. But when you dig into the way the poll was conducted, the reality is that this is another variation on the theme of preying on low information voters to get the result you want.

Let’s take Arizona’s poll questions for example. The first question is a standard approval poll, and the question is rather innocuous. But after that, it all goes down hill.

Would you support or oppose requiring background checks for all gun sales, including gun shows and the internet?

Heck, I would say yes to that question. But as we all know, the devil is in the details, and that’s the reason I cheered as the Senate killed the Machin / Toomey proposal. This question doesn’t ask if the voters supported that SPECIFIC proposal, but instead if they support the idea in general. Which is a far cry from the politicians claiming that 90% of the country wanted to see the current proposed legislation pass.

What’s next?

Does Jeff Flake’s vote against requiring background checks make you more or less likely to support him for re-election, or does it not make a difference?

This question is worded so poorly that it would have the voter think that Jeff Flake voted to eliminate all background checks, not just that he opposed the universal background check legislation. It plants that idea in the caller’s heads, which makes this question a referendum on background checks instead of how Senator Flake specifically acted in this situation. It’s a poorly worded question asked in the wrong sequence that produced very questionable results.

The way to ask this kind of question is, right after the popularity question, to ask people an open ended question like “what most influenced your decision about Senator Flake?” Then you get people’s actual reasons for liking him or not liking him.

Asking about background checks first sets people in that mindset of gun control and colors the following responses, which were so poorly worded that anyone who wasn’t paying close attention to the legislation might think was a proposal to remove all background checks. It leads the survey participants to the answer the polling company wants.

And that’s what throws the results of this survey completely in the gutter. The challenge in polling isn’t crunching the numbers, but instead trying to phrase questions and pace them in such a way that you get usable results. And in this case, it looks like Public Policy Polling was more interested in getting the results it wanted to support its pre-determined conclusion than actually taking the temperature of the country.

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

33 Responses to Anti-Gun Control Senators Facing Backlash? I Don’t Think So . . .

  1. avatardwb says:

    Heller gave gun control a terminal illness. Stages of grief: denial, anger bargaining, depression, acceptance. I think we are somewhere beteeen denial and anger just now.

    • avatarSoccerchainsaw says:

      I doubt that I’ll see the “acceptance” stage in my lifetime.

      • avatarPat says:

        And with every mass shooting, we go back to the beginning of the process with denial (of reality) and anger (a libtard given).

  2. avatarDonS says:

    Would you support or oppose requiring background checks for all gun sales, including gun shows and the internet?

    Unless it was multiple choice, the only logical answers to that question are “Yes” and “No opinion”.

    • avatarTrogdor says:

      That question can’t be answered with a yes or no. The only options they give you are “support” or “oppose.” I “oppose”.

      • avatarDonS says:

        The question is “do you support or oppose”. If I support, the result of the boolean condition (support or oppose) is true; same result if I oppose.

        Unless, of course, they only allow responses like “support”, “oppose”, or “not sure”. (Which I considered in my first post above when I mentioned multiple choice.)

  3. avatarRandy Drescher says:

    Thats ok, the NRA will clear this up come election time, Randy

  4. avatarRalph says:

    PPP’s questions were not poorly worded. They were worded perfectly to obtain a predetermined result. And PPP was clearly interested in taking the temperature of the American public with an @nal thermometer.

  5. avatarWR2A says:

    Behold the anti-gun cultists over at Gun Control Now USA, as they digest this erroneous poll as Gospel. *gigglesnort*

    What morons. So thirsty for relevance that they would drink piss as long as it promised them a voice.
    http://guncontrolnowusa.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/nra-supporters-are-less-popular-than-pond-scum-im-the-nra-and-i-buy-congressmen/

  6. avatarjwm says:

    We’ll see The Truth About The Poll come election time.

  7. avatarNarcoossee says:

    Actually, their question “Does Jeff Flake’s vote against requiring background checks…” was not poorly worded at all. It was crafted to generate precisely the answer they wanted. The question is defective, because Jeff Flake did NOT vote “against requiring background checks”; he voted against a bill which included a specific implementation of a method of background checking.

    Here’s a FUN FACT which I haven’t seen noted before. Apparently, our friends in the Senate, who swore to uphold the Constitution (they DID swear to do that, right?) , struck out, among other things:

    [Struck out->] (1) Congress supports and respects the right to bear arms found in the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. [<-Struck out]

    For FUN, go see what else they struck out: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s374/text

    BTW – Senator Flake is blaming his drop in poll ratings on his vote: http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/296963-sen-flake-blames-vote-against-gun-background-check-bill-for-low-poll-numbers

  8. avatarBilly Wardlaw says:

    My ex-wife had a PHD in demography, worked for the census and at one time ran a consulting firm that designed surveys for companies and health organizations. She use rail against most surveys for this exact reason. She always said it was easy to engineer questions to get the answer you wanted. What is truly difficult is to engineer a neutral survey that gave you the truth, and some usable data. For that reason, all surveys were to be regarded with heavy skepticism – most not standing up to serious examination.

    I would go further and suggest this survey is not designed to gather information, but rather to plant it.

    • avatarSoccerchainsaw says:

      Once again, this is the reason my standard answer to pollsters is, “I don’t participate in polls.”

    • avatarIdahoPete says:

      I believe that all informed American citizens have a moral duty to LIE, repeatedly, to pollsters. Lie about your age, lie about your income, lie about your opinions, lie about everything possible. If enough of us do this, we might be able to put the polling firms out of business, and then the politicians might even have to tell us what they really believe instead of what they think we want to hear.

      And when you fill out the US Census, for “race”, answer “human”. That will make it difficult for the pols to gerrymander the voting districts.

      Or else write the following on the face of the census form: “I decline to answer any questions [they are asked "under penalty of law"] from a federal agency unless I have a lawyer present during questioning. I cannot afford a lawyer at this time, and I request that one be appointed to assist me during questioning.” (Be prepared for the armed census workers to smash in your front door and haul you off to the re-education camp.)

  9. avatarLance says:

    I dont see this gong to hurt any Senator most who voted no are not even up next year for election.

  10. avatarAharon says:

    Only a small minority of non-gun owners will vote against a pro-gun politician based exclusively on their support of guns. However, many gun owners will vote exclusively against an anti-gun politician based on their support of gun control or said another way their support for new laws that will take away the rights of gun owners.

  11. avatarGreg Camp says:

    I’m looking forward to the election in 2014. Every pro-gun politician can run on opposition to the Mayor of the City of New York.

    • avatarRalph says:

      Yes, exactly! Every pro-gun candidate can run against New York money doled out by a New York billionaire mayor. And let’s fact it, nobody actually likes that little pr1ck.

  12. avatarNazgul says:

    The Progressives are actively targeting Senator Kelly Ayotte, with the media gleefully reporting on her getting beat up at town hall meetings. I hope that pro 2A people in NH are working to counter the Bloomberg sponsored attacks.

    • avatarJerry says:

      New Hampshire is a blue state, so Ms. Ayotte could have some problems. However, I do not believe she is up for reelection again until 2016. I wish her well, and will donate to her campaign in due course.

  13. avatarJAS says:

    Listening to the Glenn Beck on the radio this morning. They have a new book out now for pro gun folks titled “CONTROL”. One stat stood out at me (can’t verify whether it’s right as I don’t have the book):

    1993 – 6.3 gun murders per 100,000 – 190,000,000 guns in the U.S.
    2011 – 3.2 gun murders per 100,000 – 310,000,000 guns in the U.S.

    They conclude: “It’s not the guns STUPID!”

    • avatarGyufygy says:

      Seems in line with the general trends in crime rates since the early 90s. Haven’t looked at the FBI reports in awhile, so I don’t remember the specifics of each type of crime.

  14. avatarSilver says:

    Wouldn’t surprise me if anti-rights senators suffered no popular backlash at all. After all, we’re talking about a public that voted Obama in a second term.

  15. avatarwareagle69 says:

    I can create a set of questions on any issue that will give you a response that supports whatever point of view you want to push. That is pretty easy to do.

    For part of my career, I was responsible for the Marketing function in a Fortune 500 company. Part of the Marketing function is surveying customers on their opinions, feelings, etc. about both you and competitors. How you structured and worded questions was crucial. As a business, we wanted a true picture of what customers thought of us and those companies we competed against. Framing questions to elicit as unbiased a response as possible was a challenge. Leading the respondent to an answer you want, on the other hand, is much easier.

  16. avatarJay says:

    Its so easy to get the answer one wants to in a poll.
    Its laughable.
    Fortunately its the informed voter who actually reads these things.
    Not the uninformed out there that just like to make noise.
    Any one who took the time to read the bills that were voted down saw the “common sense” written in them.
    And those who want “common sense” gun control.
    Don’t read anything.

  17. avatarMark N. says:

    Leaving aside this poll, I read today that a Republican NH senator Kelly Ayoute was doing a town hall meeting in an out of the way spot, and got harangued for her vote against the M-T bill by some in attendance, and in particular,Erica Lafferty, the daughter of the Sandy Hook principle, who was “disgusted” by the Senator’s action and explanation for her vote. Apparently Ms. Lafferty feels that the burden of her mother’s death outweighed the rights of citizens under the Second Amendment. The first question that popped to my mind was whether she was even a resident of New Hampshire, or instead this was a set-up by MAIG. I also take it she has no ready explanation as to how universal background checks would have done anything to prevent her mother’s murder.

    • avatarAPBTFan says:

      Stooges that have any connection to a shooting victim will travel the nation (on Air Force One no less) to harass any politician they don’t agree with. Mark Kelly goes anywhere he can get a mic and has the audacity to talk like he’s an elected official.

      What’s happening to a degree is the middle of the road folks are picking up on how frantic, desperate and obnoxious the anti gunners have become and they’re not buying it.

  18. avatarAPBTFan says:

    Gotta say I take no stock in polls no matter what side they seem to favor. Polls are bullshit. End of story.

    • avatarEd Ranger says:

      Has any TTAG reader been polled about how they feel about gun control?

      I do not know what methodology they used, but back during the election season there were numerous articles about the difficulty of polling when more and more people have given up their land line phones and utilize only cell phones. Couple that with the fact that most people screen their home phone calls or simply hang up when the caller announces that they are taking a poll and it makes you wonder if the only people responding to polls are not lonely desperate people who are just happy to have someone to talk to…..not sure I want politicians counting on their responses to make policy.

  19. avatarFrank says:

    “Public Policy Polling was founded by, and still led by, Democratic pollster Dean Debnam, whose political contributions show a considerable Democratic bias. Public Policy Polling doesn’t even attempt to hide its Democrat cheerleading. In a Politico article depicting their war against Republican Senate candidate Richard Burr, Public Policy Polling Director Tom Jensen said “we’re absolutely rooting in the race. We don’t want Richard Burr to get reelected. We wanted Obama to win last fall.”

  20. avatarPPP is full of it says:

    http://gunowners.org/news05022013.htm

    This goes into detail and just destroys the PPP and Bloomberg media narrative nonsense. Basically every other poll that has been done in the same time period contradicts what PPP is saying, but gun banners ignore all of the rest and only focus on the automated calling from PPP to ask complex questions with a “press 1″ or “press 2″ answer.

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