President Obama loves to point to a poll that said 90 percent of all Americans wanted tougher background checks. After the measure failed in the Senate, Obama wanted that 90 percent to let Congress know how they felt.
But a new Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll suggests that post-vote attitudes stray from the wide support for the background check measure before the debate, which hovered around 85% in multiple polls.
A plurality of Americans–47%–say they are either “angry” or “disappointed” with the Senate’s action on gun legislation, far different from the amount of people who strongly approved the proposal before the vote. Meanwhile, 39% say they are “relieved” or “happy” about the vote.
I always thought those earlier numbers were soft, and they were.
You see, one of the issues has always been that many polls don’t really capture how committed to something a respondent really is. Someone may support the idea of tougher background checks, but how important is really is to them.
For example, around 85 percent of people polled like the idea of stricter background checks, but what really defined “expanded” background checks in the first place? Are they thinking about making sure mental health records make it into the relevant database? Or are they thinking that all firearms should be treated like fully automatic weapons and permission must be obtained from law enforcement prior to transfer, arguing that law enforcement would know if there’s a problem that wouldn’t show up in a background check.
Obviously, there’s a lot of space between those two positions, but both could be interpreted as being pro-expanded background check.
Also, a lack of knowledge can skew results. After all, what if someone actually believed that you could go to a gun show and buy a firearm without a background check? Folks, this is actually pretty rare. Learning how rare it really is could change someone’s position.
Either way, Obama banked on this motivating millions of Americans to give Congress fits. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s a purely partisan issue with only Democrats really flocking to the issue.