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Post-parkland — support for gun control is not as high as pollsters want you to believe


In the wake of the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Fla. most Americans were stunned at the brazen ease at which the suspect killed 17 students and injured many more.

Sadly, before the bodies were even identified the mainstream media waded into an attempt to affect public opinion — and ever since, they have suggested that support for gun control has reached an “all-time high” in American history.

{mosads}However, the mainstream media may have spoken too soon.


Likewise under pressure to do something — anything — to comfort their constituents in the wake of tragedy, the Florida legislature rushed to pass a new package of gun laws that bans ownership of guns until age 21 and imposes a three-day waiting period on gun purchases. The National Rifle Association is now suing over at least one of those laws.

No doubt Florida legislators were paying close attention to public polling on the issue. However, lawmakers around the country would be wise not to rush to judgment, especially because upon closer inspection of the methodology of leading polls, the numbers may not be what the pollsters would like you to believe.

Among the top three polls cited recently by Politico as proof that Americans have finally come around on gun control, there are serious issues with all three polls.

This supports the theory that many Americans believe that in order to get a particular answer, most major polling firms today will ask the question in a particular way.

Alternatively, the news organization sponsoring the poll might be biased itself and set the expectation of what they hope to find. Or, the organization just might leave out pertinent information about the precise methodology of how the poll was conducted.

In the case of recent gun control polls, all of the above appear to be the case.

First, a widely-touted CBS News poll on gun control reported that nearly two-thirds of Americans now support gun control. However, what CBS News fails to disclose is that individuals surveyed for its poll were “registered voters” — not “likely voters.”

Any professional familiar with the accuracy of polling methodologies understands that the best way to gauge opinion (especially on high-intensity issues such as gun control) is to survey individuals who have actually voted in recent elections and are likely to vote in the next.

Case in point: The Gallup poll, the gold standard of public opinion surveys in the U.S., has over the years has cultivated methodologies “to isolate likely voters — that group of individuals who the company can estimate are most likely to actually vote.”

It is this group of individuals that Gallup relies upon for its legendarily accurate polls. Simply put, Gallup knows what those of us in politics have known for years — that individuals who are only “registered to vote” aren’t quite as reliable to survey as “likely voters,” as the former group may have registered once upon a time but may not have voted in years.

Additionally, likely voters are considered more-informed voters. The Gallup organization states it “has spent decades developing its system, which the company has found in election after election helps improve accuracy in terms of how the final poll before an election compares with the actual vote percentages on Election Day itself.”

Perhaps CBS News did not know about the Gallup methodology for their own polls; after all, CBS News’ own polling just weeks prior to the 2016 Presidential election was also wrong — it showed Hillary Clinton winning by approximately 10 percent and widening her lead with just “weeks to go.” 

Second, Politico’s Morning Consult poll also has a fatal flaw. It is an “online poll” — thought to be one of the least accurate methods of polling because the user often self-selects participation and the methodology fails to use random sampling, thought to be the most accurate selection for polling.

But don’t take my word for it.

Even the liberal The New York Times agrees. In its piece titled, “Online Polls Are Rising. So Are Concerns About Their Results,” the newspaper states that “Random sampling is at the heart of scientific polling, and there’s no way to randomly contact people on the Internet in the same way that telephone polls can randomly dial telephone numbers.

Internet pollsters obtain their samples through other means, without the theoretical benefits of random sampling. To compensate, they sometimes rely on extensive statistical modeling” which is not as accurate in polling.

Third, CNN’s poll failed to poll verified registered voters. That would be fine if politics were not a factor in the gun control debate, but one knows that it is. In fact, CNN went out of their way to tout how republicans, democrats and independents aligned on each individual gun control topic, from background checks to mental health to high-capacity magazines.

Yet it failed to actually verify the voter registration makeup of the individuals who participated in the poll. Instead, CNN’s polling firm disclaims in the fine print that “33 percent described themselves as Democrats, 23 percent described themselves as Republicans, and 44 percent described themselves as independents or members of another party.”

There was no verification of their actual party registration — CNN relied entirely on the respondents’ self-disclosure which is known to be unreliable. At best, it is naïve for CNN to believe their methodology was accurate; at worst, it was deceptive for CNN to even mention the political party outcome because they likely knew it was an inaccurate or incomplete representation. (It is worth noting that like its counterpart CBS News, CNN also incorrectly predicted in its CNN/ORC Poll that Clinton would win in 2016).

As the old saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.” It is safe to suggest that if a polling methodology is flawed, then the outcome of that poll likely is, too.

Rightfully, Americans have begun to distrust what I call “big polling” — polling firms hired by the mainstream media outlets to crank out polls so quickly, most consumers of news don’t have time to check their veracity or read the fine print. As a result, the consumer unwittingly believes because the poll is tied to a “trusted” major media outlet, the polls must be accurate.

To be sure, in this case, Americans are indeed fed up with the scourge of school shootings. Once in a generation an issue comes along that can galvanize the electorate in a way that no prior incident could. In the case of the Parkland shooting, we can all agree that we want school shootings to happen #NeverAgain.

However, though we may collectively share the same feelings about the problem, we can’t begin to agree on the solution if “Big Polling” and their liberal media counterparts aren’t intellectually honest about the question to begin with.

There can’t be an honest debate in the halls of state legislatures, at the local school drop-off or on the floors of Congress until liberal media organizations commit to uniform polling methodologies and create a firewall between their polls and the likely biases that influence them.

Until that day, new polls from the left-wing media should be seen for what they are — nothing more than a political argument in favor of an issue.

Jen Kerns has served as a GOP strategist and writer for the U.S. presidential debates for FOX News. She previously served as communications director and spokeswoman for the California Republican Party, the Colorado Recalls over gun control, and the Prop. 8 battle over marriage which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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