Politico's Kady cites 6-month-old poll to claim last week's shootings haven't affected public opinion about guns

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Politico's Martin Kady's lede:

The heavy coverage of mass shootings in Binghamton, N.Y., North Carolina, Washington state and the cop killings in Pittsburgh has had little apparent effect on the nation's appetite for new gun laws.

Headline on Gallup report on which Kady based his post (emphasis added):

Before Recent Shootings, Gun-Control Support Was Fading

True, Kady did later admit, "It's important to note that the poll was taken before the massacre in Binghamton, but other mass shootings have been in the news for a few weeks."

But ... well, maybe he should have read that Gallup release a little more closely:

The latest figures come from the most recent installment of Gallup's annual Crime survey, conducted Oct. 3-5, 2008.

"Other mass shootings have been in the news for a few weeks," Kady tells us -- but the poll was conducted last year! That's long before the past few weeks.

Not only is Kady citing a 6-month-old poll to make assertions about whether attitudes have changed in the past week, he's cherry-picking results to overstate public opposition to gun control. Kady mentions exactly one poll result in his post:

A Gallup Poll out this morning shows support for a ban on private hand gun ownership at an all time low, with 29 percent of respondents saying they support such a law. It's the smallest percentage since Gallup started asking this question 50 years ago.

That leads him to conclude: "The poll may show why virtually nobody in Congress is rolling out new gun control legislation."

Well, OK. It's true politicians haven't had much appetite for new gun-control legislation in recent years, and almost certainly true that for many of them, politics is as much a part of the reason as are policy considerations.

That aside, Kady's post paints a pretty misleading picture of public opinion about gun control. He cites only one poll result, one showing little public support for a complete ban on private handgun ownership. And from that, he draws conclusions about "the nation's appetite for new gun laws."

Well, guess what? There are all kinds of potential new gun laws other than a complete ban on private handgun ownership. Like reinstating the assault weapons ban, or closing the gun-show loophole. When Gallup asked if gun laws should be more or less strict, 49 percent said more strict. That paints a far different picture than the 29 percent support for a handgun ban Kady cited.

UPDATE: Kady has updated his post:

UPDATE/CORRECTION: The folks at Media Matters have made a fair point in criticizing this post, noting that the polling was done several months ago -- even though Gallup posted this poll just today. It's still worth noting that there isn't yet a ground swell of support in the Democratic Congress for new gun control laws in wake of the tragic shootings, but I should have drilled into this polling data more closely. Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign, writing in HuffPo, has also taken Gallup to task, calling the release of the poll today misleading.

Kady also added a line in the body of the post acknowledging "the poll also notes that 49 percent of Americans want stricter gun control laws than what's on the books now."

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Guns
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