Polling Data

I managed to find a copy of the polling data Governor Rendell was touting, bought and paid for by CeaseFire PA. Let’s look at some of these polling questions and you tell me how loaded you think the questions are:

In the last week in Philadelphia, three police officer were shot, including one fatally. Which statement do you agree with more:

1. These shootings represent a crisis that needs to be dealth with immediate, and a part of the solution is to pass common sense handgun safety laws to protect our police officers

2. The shootings are a tragedy, but we should not rush to trample on our right to bear arms to address the problem.

61% of 600 Pennsylvania voters went with 1, and 32% with 2. The questions for the lost or stolen bill, which garnered 96% approval, were:

Support for handgun safety measures: Require handgun owners to immediate report lost or stolen guns to the police?

What if you phrased it this way?

Support for gun control measure: A firearm owner convicted of failing to report a lost or stolen firearm to the police can face a felony charge involving several years in prison?

Of course, that might not get them the result they want. There was a time when politicians might have paid attention to these polls, but when they did, gun owners voted a lot of them out of office. How did that happen if we’re such a minority? Because polls don’t matter. What matters is what motivates people to vote, and when we get screwed, we show up at the polls and pull the lever for the other guy. Hard core gun rights activists may be a minority, but a lot of people care about our issue. People who care bout implementing gun control enough to vote it? Now there’s a minority.

5 thoughts on “Polling Data”

  1. *sigh* The abuse of statistics is such a pathetic tactic, but one of amazing power. The average human has an almost mystical viewpoint of statistics, polls, and the like, and is, more often than not, willing to buy into them without bothering to do any research into how they were gathered or what they actually indicate. Thanks for exposing the acutal questions asked… certainly shows the agenda of those doing the asking.

  2. It’s very hard to find any gun polls where the questions aren’t biased one way or the other. This seems to be true for both pro-gun and anti-gun poll sponsors, although the anti-gun crowd is much more blatant.

    For example, consider the following three variations on a common kind of question:

    (1) Do you believe private citizens should be allowed to own handguns?

    (2) Do you believe private citizens should be allowed to own handguns to protect themselves and their family?

    (3) Do you believe private citizens should be allowed to own handguns even though they might be used to kill someone
    or commit a crime?

    Most gun polls will give you some version of (2) or (3).

    Another trick is restricting poll responses to a small set of outcomes (eg, new gun control laws) while excluding other possible outcomes contrary to poll sponsor interests.

    In general, we should all be highly skeptical of gun polls, whether favorable or not.

  3. How about asking convicts “have you ever drunk tap water?”
    The result would approximate 100%, so clearly drinking tap water should be outlawed.
    Still. I admit that the bias is usually not conscious. The “[Should we] Require handgun owners to immediately report lost or stolen guns to the police” query does not look bad at a glance, until you substitute something else (eg `garden gnomes`, `returnable cans`).

  4. I was not trying to say that any particular side is blameless in any pollster situation, rather that people should not buy into any poll numbers without first seeing the actual questions asked of the polling body… And that goes for just about any poll.

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