National Rifle Association In Denial About Public Opinion

March 08, 2011 10:03 am ET — Chris Brown

Last week, Mayors Against Illegal Guns released polling on five swing states, which show overwhelming support for closing loopholes in the nation's background check system. Just as they do with any poll that doesn't fit their agenda, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is trying to discredit the pollster and the findings.

Polls were conducted in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Virginia and Ohio. All the polls showed a similar pattern: requirements for reporting lost or stolen guns, requiring background checks for all purchases at gun shows, and preventing people on terrorist watch lists from purchasing guns all polled above 80 percent. On gun show background checks, 82 percent or more of respondents in each state supported requiring all sellers at gun shows to run background checks for all gun sales.

NRA News host Ginny Simone interviewed Dave Adams of the Virginia Shooting Sports Association to challenge the validity of the Virginia survey. Adams questioned the methodology and the political orientation of pollster, but it was apparent his objections really rested on little more his belief that the results couldn't be right (video below the fold).

SIMONE: Mayor Bloomberg and his anti-gun coalition come out with this new survey showing they claim broad support, major support for background checks, tighter background checks on the purchase and sale of firearms in the state.  And I'm sure you're reaction was surprise, surprise, surprise.

ADAMS: Absolutely especially when you see who they commissioned to run the polls. A left leaning organization that I'm sure clearly has no, no good things to say about gun owners or firearms. So clearly you can get any results you want depending on the way you ask a question in a poll.

SIMONE: Absolutely, it's funny because they didn't show the kind of questions they asked. But you gotta know whatever they asked given them the results they wanted as you said. They talking about 88 percent of Virginians support a law to require  background checks for all guns sold at gun shows. And you say...

ADAMS: Laughable. I don't know, they have to skew and this is another thing they don't tell you, when they give the poll results, is where were their respondents in the commonwealth, where do those folks live. It's clear from the results they have to be skewed to either urban areas or a combination of urban areas and northern Virginia because I can't believe anywhere else in the commonwealth you can get a number like that.   

The Virginia polls, as well as the Colorado and Ohio polls, were conducted by a Democratic polling firm, but the polls for the Arizona and Indiana surveys were conducted by Republican pollsters. Contrary to what Adams claims, it didn't matter whether the questions were asked by a Republican or a Democratic pollster; people overwhelmingly wanted background checks in all five states.

As for how they asked about background checks, it's not a secret. Respondents could choose to favor or oppose, strongly or somewhat, or say they don't know. They were asked about background checks two ways:

Require all gun sellers at gun shows to conduct criminal background checks on all gun buyers

Require all gun buyers to pass a criminal background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter who they buy it from

None of this is new territory for the NRA, which routinely ignores and challenges polling showing people support common sense measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Consider the poll conducted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, which showed that 69 percent of NRA members support requiring gun sellers at gun shows to run background checks. Luntz, who coined the term "death tax," was quickly dismissed by the NRA.

As for the geography of poll respondents, we don't know where they live; very few polls actually release this type of information, but plenty of information about the respondents was included. The race, age, gender and education level for all respondents was released and was representative. Besides the standard demographic information, the poll also released the percentage of respondents living in gun-owning households. In Virginia it was 38 percent. 

Adams and Simone find it impossible that the public could support expanded background checks, but in reality having people who buy firearms undergo a background check is popular across the board. Poll after poll has not only demonstrated that the public support common sense gun laws, but also that the NRA is completely out of touch with Virginians, Americans, and even with their own NRA membership.