Kimberly Morin writes that surveys are an interesting thing. There are all kinds of surveys and polls that are tossed around on a regular basis, especially during elections.
PEW Research is usually pretty reasonable with their surveys but they’ve done a recent one on firearms and it just doesn’t cut the smell test. PEW oversampled Democrats in the survey and they don’t break down the people surveyed by Independents either. Since Independents are a growing number of voters in this country, it makes sense to statistically include them and break them out.
PEW also oversampled non-gun owners in our opinion. There are an estimated 90 million or more gun owners in the country, that’s out of 330 million people (not all of who can own firearms). There are an estimated 200 million people who are registered to vote in the United States. If you are trying to survey a likely voter sampling, you’d have to use at least 45% to be a representative sample of gun owners, right? Pew doesn’t. They use 66% non-gun owners and the rest are gun owners.
From the survey:
The survey finds that Americans have broad exposure to guns, whether they personally own one or not. At least two-thirds have lived in a household with a gun at some point in their lives. And roughly seven-in-ten – including 55% of those who have never personally owned a gun – say they have fired a gun at some point. Today, three-in-ten U.S. adults say they own a gun, and an additional 36% say that while they don’t own one now, they might be open to owning a gun in the future. A third of adults say they don’t currently own a gun and can’t see themselves ever doing so.
And here is where the people they poll make a difference:
To be sure, experiences with guns aren’t always positive: 44% of U.S. adults say they personally know someone who has been shot, either accidentally or intentionally, and about a quarter (23%) say they or someone in their family have been threatened or intimidated by someone using a gun. Half see gun violence as a very big problem in the U.S. today, although gun owners and non-owners offer divergent views on this.
And here’s where you know the survey is less than credible:
There is also a partisan divide on views of gun policy, and these differences remain even after controlling for gun ownership. For example, Republican gun owners are much more resistant than Democratic gun owners to creating a database to track gun sales and banning assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines. On the flip side, Republicans are also more open to proposals that would expand gun rights. A prime example: 82% of Republican gun owners favor expanding concealed carry laws to more places, compared with 41% of their Democratic counterparts.
There is no such thing as assault-style weapons. They clearly used this term inappropriately. They are most likely referring to semi-automatic rifles that work the exact same way as semi-automatic handguns.
Pew also surveyed people under the age of 21. Why is this a problem? You cannot legally purchase a handgun in the United States unless you are 21 years of age. Since the survey is about all firearms, the experiences of those who aren’t legally able to purchase them would not matter since they can’t legally have that experience.
There are some very interesting things in the survey as well but it should be taken with a grain of salt given some of the samplings. Of course, like many places, Pew weighs their samples but it would be far more interesting if they could get statistically equal samples of the real makeup across the country based on political affiliation, gun owners to non-gun owners as well as location. Location is also a big factor.