More On The Media's Gun Polling Fallacy

New York Times/CBS News/Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday provides new evidence of the logical flaw in the media's claim that the American public opposes new gun violence prevention measures. The media distorts polling data to suggest that there is no support for new laws in the wake of mass shootings, ignoring widespread support for specific commonsense new rules.

In the wake of the Aurora mass shooting, we documented that the media repeatedly cited Gallup polling that shows a minority calling for “laws covering the sales of firearms” to be made “more strict” as evidence of public opposition to new gun laws. As we noted at the time, a wealth of other polls show strong majorities in favor of a variety of specific new gun laws, including assault weapons bans, requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check, and gun registration.

Today's survey asked both the general question of whether voters in the swing states of Colorado, Wisconsin, and Virginia want gun laws to be more strict, less strict, or kept the same; AND the specific question of whether those voters support a ban on high-capacity magazines, which have been used in several recent mass shootings.

The results show that while Americans may not support stricter gun laws in theory, they do support them in practice, with significantly higher percentages of respondents supporting an actual stricter gun law (the hi-cap magazine ban) than supporting “more strict” laws in general:

  • 38 percent of likely Colorado voters say they want stricter gun laws, but 58 percent support a ban on high-capacity magazines, a 20-point gap.
  • 44 percent of likely Virginia voters say they want stricter gun laws, but 52 percent support the ban, and 8-point gap.
  • 43 percent of likely Wisconsin voters say they want stricter gun laws, but 57 percent support the ban, a 14-point gap.


Graphic by Drew Gardner.