In June, Time magazine conducted a survey on how Americans view gun ownership. The survey was conducted with social psychologists Sander van der Linden of Cambridge and Princeton Universities and Adam Pearson of Pomona College who polled 5,117 respondents on their opinions, then asked to predict how other people felt about the same issue.
Interestingly enough, respondents who agreed with the statement “I think having a gun in the home increases one’s risk of death,” were more likely to think other Americans would agree as well.
In fact, those who agreed with the statement, on average, predicted more than half of Americans also agreed with their position. However, those polled who disagreed with the statement also predicted that a majority of Americans likely agreed with their position.
“Our research shows that, in forming social judgments, both liberals and conservatives rely on consensus cues from a neutral ‘out-group,’ such as scientists, which often acts as a ‘gateway’ to shaping other key personal beliefs,” van der Linden said. “However, at the same time, a large body of social-psychological work, including our own, also finds that conservatives typically value adherence to social norms and social conformity more than liberals.”
Simply put: the overwhelming majority of respondents thought the majority of the country agrees with their opinion on guns.
However, neither group was terribly accurate in their predictions. According to a recent Gallup survey, only 30 percent of Americans agreed that owning a gun makes one less safe, meaning people of all opinions on the issue overestimated the percentage of Americans who agree with the question.
Van der Linden also states, “Most people have a deep motivation to be part of the prevailing social consensus, and if you and everyone else you know share the same beliefs, it only seems natural to project that this is also how society-at-large feels about the issue.”
What does this mean for gun rights advocates? In order to chance minds, we need to talk outside our echo chamber.