Critics say poll showing growing public support for gun rights ‘flawed’

The Pew Research Center released the results of a questionnaire showing growing support for gun owners’ rights last week and has been receiving a lot of flak since for the wording of its poll.

The question, “What do you think is more important – to protect the right of Americans to own guns, OR to control gun ownership?” which has been reported heavily in the media, is skewed, according to critics.

As Media Matters pointed out, the poll assumes that “controlling” measures like background checks would hinder law-abiding citizens from owning guns.

It may come as no surprise that many Americans would choose freedom over self control, academics from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research told Media Matters.

“Pew’s question presents one side emphasizing the protection of individual rights versus restricting gun ownership. The question’s implicit and incorrect assumption is that regulations of gun sales infringe on gun owners’ rights and control their ability to own guns,” the center’s director Daniel Webster said. “The reality is that the vast majority of gun laws restrict the ability of criminals and other dangerous people to get guns and place minimal burdens on potential gun purchasers such as undergoing a background check. Such policies enjoy overwhelming public support.”

Pew’s research director, Carroll Doherty, told Mother Jones that the center has asked the same question in surveys since 1993, “with the aim of tracking general public sentiment on gun policy over time.”

Doherty also contended that the question may not have been perfect.

“This is in no way intended to say there’s not support for background checks and some measures aimed at specific policies either [in Congress] or in the states. Mr. Webster is right to put it in context.”

The Pew Research Center declined to comment on whether or not it would change the polling question in light of recent criticism.

TELL US what you think? Was the wording in Pew’s poll skewed?