Wednesday, March 24, 2021


Here's the headline of a National Review post by Charles C.W. Cooke:
Gun-Control Polling Is Largely Meaningless
This headline suggests that Cooke will make an evidence-based case for why we shouldn't trust polling on firearms. He does nothing of the sort.

Cooke writes:
From Forbes:
84%. That’s the share of voters who said they support requiring all gun buyers to go through a background check in a Morning Consult/Politico poll released earlier this month. That includes 77% of Republicans. However, far fewer – just 48% – support closing the loophole addressed by H.R. 1446, while 38% oppose such a measure.
We hear this statistic a lot, typically coupled with “... so why won’t Congress take action?”

My operating assumption: Because it’s not really true.
So we've gone form a headline hinting at hard evidence of gun polling's questionable nature to Cooke's "operating assumption" -- in other words, his feelings.

And that's all we get as backup for his assertions:
Having written a lot about this topic, I have come to suspect that when Americans tell pollsters that they “support requiring all gun buyers to go through a background check,” they believe they are being asked whether a background-check system should exist at all, rather than whether it should be extended intrusively to all firearms transfers.
"Having written a lot about this topic," Cooke might have quoted some of what he's written, or some of what he's learned while reporting what he's written, to back up his declaration that what he's "come to suspect" is actually true. Nahhh.

Cooke continues:
There is a reason that concrete referendums on this question tend to yield extremely tight splits, that the vast majority of states do not regulate private sales, and that congressional bills, once debated, tend to be far, far less popular than the pre-debate polls had suggested they’d be — and that reason is that while a clear majority of voters do not object to gun stores having to go through the motions, they are not actually that wild about the prospect of involving the government every time they loan their friend a rifle.
But the measure with less-than-overwhelming support (though it's still plurality support) doesn't concern loans of firearms -- it concerns sales. As Morning Consult explains,
Along with the background check legislation, the House is also advancing legislation sponsored by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) that would change the three-day waiting period to purchase a gun to 10 days if the Federal Bureau of Investigation has not yet completed the buyer’s background check. That measure takes on the so-called “Charleston loophole,” named for the deadly mass church shooting in 2015, in which the shooter evaded measures meant to block him from purchasing a weapon.

According to the latest survey, 48 percent of voters support Clyburn’s legislation, but it garners opposition from 38 percent of voters – driven by nearly half of Republicans.
This has not been a hot-button issue. It's not like universal background checks or an assault weapons ban. It's quite possible that poll respondents hadn't even heard about the proposal before being asked the question. It's possible that their responses suggest a belief that the FBI ought to have the capacity to get the background checks done in three days. (See? Now I'm speculating, too. But I'm not telling you my answers are definitive.) In any case, Democrats favor the Clyburn bill 56%-33%, and independents favor it 50%-33%. Republicans -- 35%-47% -- are the outliers. And 48%-38% overall support is greater popular support than exists for much legislation that's ultimately signed into law.

But to Cooke, the inconvenient polling on background checks is based on a lie.
The Democratic Party and the press spend so much time pretending that it is easier to buy a gun than a taco that many Americans have come to believe that one can simply walk into a Macy’s and pick a machine gun up off the shelf. This, clearly, they oppose. But when that myth has been dispelled and the details begin to intrude? Then, they are less sanguine.
Of course, this comes after Cooke lies about background checks applying to loans rather than sales.
This dynamic also helps to explain why the polling for HR8 is so much better than for HR1446. One of them, HR8, is polled with an extremely vague question about background checks per se; the other, HR1446, is in the weeds. And, as is so often the case, harsh detail quickly kills cheap enthusiasm.
That's what Cooke thinks of your outrage after the massacres in Atlanta in Boulder: It's "cheap enthusiasm" for a solution. And I thought it was liberals who were supposed to have contempt for ordinary voters.

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