Polls are often useful to get an idea of how the public feels about certain things. They shouldn’t dictate policy in and of themselves–rights are rights no matter how the mob feels about them, after all–but they can still serve a purpose.
However, it should also be noted that polls can swing wildly.
For example, let’s take a recent poll in Nevada.
Nevadans are roughly split on whether stricter gun laws would reduce mass shootings, but vast majorities support gun control policies such as universal background checks and raising the legal age for purchasing assault and semi-automatic weapons to 21, according to the new Nevada Independent/OH Predictive Insights poll.
The poll — which surveyed 924 registered voters between July 9 and July 18, with a 3.2 percent margin of error — showed that 49 percent believe tougher gun laws would reduce the number of mass shootings. Forty-two percent disagreed, and another 10 percent were unsure.
However, when asked about certain specific gun restriction policies, Nevadans were much more supportive. For example, 83 percent said they support policies to require criminal background checks for all gun purchases, including those at gun shows and private sales. Federal law only requires a background check whenever a person attempts to buy a gun from a licensed gun dealer, but some states, including Nevada, have implemented broader state background check laws.
They’re saying 83 percent back universal background checks.
Yet when the question came up before voters in the state back in 2017, it passed with just 50.45 percent support.
So, basically, this poll is trying to tell us that 33 percent of the public has now decided to support universal background checks. And we’re expected to believe it?
“But Uvalde! Buffalo! Highland Park!”
Yeah, all of those things happened. Sure.
Yet 2017 was the same year as the Las Vegas shooting. Not only was it more deadly than all three of those shootings combined, but it was also far more local. If anything should have created more than 80+ percent support for a gun control law, that should have done it.
Further, I can’t help but wonder how 42 percent of people can think that more gun laws wouldn’t necessarily reduce shootings yet still support universal background checks.
Then again, that just fits in with something Cam noted on Monday where Republicans were trusted on crime, but that didn’t mesh with the poll’s findings saying that they trusted Democrats on gun control. In other words, the polls are suggesting that respondents are talking out of both sides of their mouths.
Which is possible. The American voter isn’t known to be particularly interested in intellectual consistency.
Regardless, neither of these polls really seems to match reality as we’ve seen it in the past, but that’s especially true in this case. A 33 percent swing just doesn’t make much sense when you look at everything in context, especially since it’s clear that these same people really don’t think universal background checks will do anything for mass shootings.
So what gives?
Frankly, the thing you need to take from this is that polls are useful, sure, but they shouldn’t be taken as gospel truth. They can be manipulated or can just make no sense at all when you compare them with reality.