With the election approaching, don’t be surprised to see polls showing increasing support for new restrictions on guns. Recent shootings, especially those involving military style rifles used against police officers, are driving the shift. An Associated Press “report” below is a perfect illustration:


“AP Poll: Support grows among Americans for stricter gun laws”

But when you look closely, you find the subtle manipulation of facts and wording that has become the norm in the mainstream media. For example:

“Nearly two-thirds of respondents expressed support for stricter laws, with majorities favoring nationwide bans on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons such as the AR-15 and on the sale of high-capacity magazines holding 10 or more bullets.”

Here’s where the manipulation comes in. Polling people unfamiliar with firearms using such politically loaded terms as “assault weapon” has a huge influence on the outcome of the survey. It isn’t hard to predict the (intended?) response.

But when the AP highlights support for things like “universal background checks,” they do not even challenge the idea, which is (or is supposed to be) part of their job. Because in reality, no such system will ever be truly “universal”—terrorists, and gang members in major cities beset by crime, do not buy their guns legally now. And no new “background check” scheme will change that.

Then there’s this claim: “The percentage of Americans who want such laws is the highest since the AP-GfK poll started asking the question in 2013.”

Wow, sounds like an increasing number of Americans are on board with gun control. Certainly that last sentence would suggest as much. But this particular survey was conducted just 10 months after the Sandy Hook school massacre, so some sort of temporary bump in support for gun laws would be understandable. What is not pointed out is that the recent slight increase comes after more than 25 years of declining support for gun control.

The authors also quote one St. Louis resident who says:

“…straw purchasers who buy and then resell guns to ineligible felons and teenagers have flooded some urban neighborhoods with firearms and need to be stopped.”

But this is especially misleading, because the AP authors apparently didn’t know that “straw purchases” are already a felony. So if such violations are not being prosecuted, that’s a local law enforcement problem, not a legislative one. As gun rights advocates have said for decades, we need to prosecute actual criminals based on existing laws, not create new restrictions that only affect innocent gun owners.

Finally, the survey itself is highly suspect. Even their own explanation of the polling process is problematic:

“Poll of 1,009 adults was conducted online using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based Knowledge-Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population.”

Online polls are not scientific. But it gets even more interesting:

“Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for the Knowledge-Panel who did not have access to the internet were provided access for free.”

Wait a minute. There were people in an “online” survey who didn’t even have access to the internet? Seriously? Color me suspicious, but who would those people be?

Finally, there’s an old saying among veteran politicos: “Attitudes don’t always drive polls. Sometimes, polls are used to drive attitudes.”

He’s right. They’re called “push” polls. And there are no doubt more to come.