Bad Data and the "Evil Empire": Interpreting Poll Data on Gun Control

By Kleck, Gary | Violence and Victims, January 1, 1993 | Go to article overview

Bad Data and the "Evil Empire": Interpreting Poll Data on Gun Control


Kleck, Gary, Violence and Victims


Abusing the National Rifle Association (NRA) is always good sport for the intelligentsia and for gun-control true believers. Weil and Hemenway (pp. 353-365 in this issue) apparently could not resist the temptation to take some cheap shots at the "evil empire," hanging their case on some dubious data from a commercial survey. Fun aside, two things are clear about this article. First, its conclusions bear little relationship to the evidence. The authors' survey data, even if taken at face value, simply do not support the authors' conclusions. Second, the data are in any case so seriously flawed that no reliable conclusions of any kind could be drawn from them on the subjects that the authors address.

NON-SEQUITUR CONCLUSIONS

Although the authors describe at length their bivariate and multivariate comparisons of NRA members with nonmember gun owners, their main conclusions have little to do with these findings. Instead, their main conclusion derives from their Table 3 and is that the official positions of the NRA deviate significantly from positions supported by its members and by gun owners in general (p. 363). One reasonable response to this conclusion would be "So what?" Surely, this is true to some degree of all advocacy and interest groups, a point that is weakly conceded by the authors themselves (p. 361). It is unlikely that any advocacy group's policy positions always match up perfectly with the majority sentiments of their members. The finding is banal and uninteresting, or would be if it were actually supported by the evidence. The authors' data, however, do not in fact support even such a minor claim as it concerns the NRA, however true or false the claim may actually be.

The authors identify three attitudes for which this deviation or discrepancy supposedly exists. First, they frequently refer to a "7-day waiting period" that is endorsed by most gun owners and self-identified "NRA members" in their sample but opposed by the NRA. Only fitfully do the authors identify the measure more fully in the text as a background check with a 7-day waiting period. Their abbreviation serves to subtly obscure the fact that the NRA, although opposing waiting periods, officially endorses background checks (NRA, 1990) and thus is in perfect accord on this matter with both its members and gun owners. Because the authors cannot know which of the two elements of this measure respondents (Rs) were endorsing, they also cannotknow if any gun owners actually supported the waiting period per se, as distinct from the background check. It is perfectly possible that most gun-owning endorsers supported only the NRA-endorsed background check while being indifferent or hostile to the waiting period element.

Supporting this interpretation, one 1991 national survey of registered voters gave Rs a direct choice between an optional background check with a waiting period and a mandatory background check without the waiting period, and it found that most Rs preferred the option without the waiting period (Lawrence, 1991). This survey also found that support for the Brady bill dropped by 12 percentage points after Rs were told of difficulties in performing background checks and by another 15 percentage points after they were told that police did not have to perform the checks. These findings directly indicate that background checks are an essential element underlying support for the Brady bill among a large share of supporters. This share might have been even larger if analysis had been confined to gun owners. Weil and Hemenway blandly note that somehow it might have been nice to see whether Rs preferred an "instant check" measure, without conceding that NRA members may support only the NRA-supported background check and not the NRA-opposed waiting period.

The authors also conclude that there is an NRA-versus-members discrepancy concerning support for "stricter gun control laws." For many gun owners and NRA members, possibly most of them, this could refer to laws with stricter or mandatory penalties, such as laws specifying mandatory minimum or add-on penalties for committing various violent felonies with a gun.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Bad Data and the "Evil Empire": Interpreting Poll Data on Gun Control
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.