Americans’ appetite for gun control is waning, according to a new survey by the Gallup organization, which found support for new gun laws at the lowest level since 2016.
According to the polling group, support for gun control is down seven points compared to 2019, and ten points compared to polling from 2018.
In the absence of a high-profile mass shooting in the U.S. in 2020 and amid the coronavirus pandemic, civil unrest related to racial justice issues and the contentious presidential election campaign, Americans are less likely than they have been since 2016 to call for increased gun control. The latest majority (57%) in the U.S. who call for stricter laws covering the sale of firearms marks a seven-percentage-point decline since last year. At the same time, 34% of U.S. adults prefer that gun laws be kept as they are now, while 9% would like them to be less strict.
Gallup has been tracking the public’s views on this measure since 1990, when a record-high 78% of Americans supported stricter laws for gun sales as the nation’s crime rate was rising. A majority of Americans held that position until 2008. Support then fell to a low of 43% in 2011, when an equal number said gun laws should be kept as is, but calls for stricter laws increased sharply to 58% in 2012 after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Of course, after the polling industry’s misfire in the 2020 election cycle, I think it’s fair to wonder if Gallup’s polling isn’t suffering from some of the same issues that we saw from other firms polling the presidential and congressional races; namely an undersampling of gun owners and pro-2A respondents who may be reluctant to tell pollsters their true views on gun issues.
As NRA-ILA recently pointed out:
Economist John Lott contends that many Americans refuse to answer or do not answer truthfully when asked about whether they own a firearm. In a piece for Fox News, Lott noted “current events influence people’s willingness to acknowledge gun ownership. After mass shootings, a sudden drop can be seen in the polling numbers.”
Wake Forest Professor of Sociology David Yamane shares Lott’s belief that inaccurate polling systematically underestimates gun ownership in the U.S. In a 2019 piece titled “Why Surveys Underestimate Gun Ownership Rates in the U.S.,”Yamane laid out the case for systematic underreporting and provided a bevy of reasons why gun owners would be reluctant to be truthful with pollsters. The professor noted, “My educated guess is that the underestimate is at least 10%, that 25% would not be an unreasonable amount, and more than 25% is likely.”
I’m not surprised that support for gun control has fallen this year, according to Gallup. After all, we’ve seen record-high levels of firearm sales since March, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates that as many as 7-million Americans have become gun owners this year. I would expect support for more gun laws to decline, particularly since hundreds of thousands of Americans are currently caught up in long delays for their own concealed carry license or gun permit.
I’m just wondering if support for new gun laws isn’t even lower than what Gallup has found. If polls on gun ownership rates are off by as much as 25%, I wouldn’t be surprised if polling on new gun laws are also skewed to a similar degree. Gallup may have accurately picked up a drop in support for gun control, but I suspect the decline is even steeper than what the polling outfit found.