Don Kates on polling and gun ownership
Don Kates emailed these thoughts:
Below are set out some results from the latest Gallup polls. They are
presented in a cheery manner for gun owners. But much of this is
deceptive and, in the long term misleading. The problem w/ polling as to
highly controversial subjects like guns is that people have a tendency
to answer dishonestly. How would you react if a complete stranger called
you up and asked if you have a gun? Would you tell them the truth? Lots
of people would not.
In the 1950s and 60s polls showed 50% or more people owned guns. But
as gun ownership became controversial and anti-gun laws were enacted,
the number of people who admitted gun ownership to pollsters went
sharply down. Was that because millions of guns just disappeared -- or
because people became more reluctant to admit ownership?
Some time in the 2000s two gun ownership polls were taken about a
year and a half apart. The first one indicated that millions more guns
were owned than the second. If one took them seriously one would have to
assume not only that gun ownership had sharply declined in a period of
less than two years, but that tens of millions of guns had just
disappeared over the period of a year and a half.
Not all of the disparity can be attributed to recent controversy
however. It has always been the case that production and importation
figures show tens of millions of more guns exist in America that no one
admits owning. What is interesting about this recent poll is the great
increase in the number of women gun owners. Also the great increase in
the number of people who reject gun control as a crime reduction strategy.
Gallup poll: Record 43% of U.S. women say household has a gun
October 26, 2011
The number of U.S. women who say their household possesses a gun is at a
A Gallup Poll released Wednesday says 43% of American women report a gun
in their home or somewhere on their property. That number is up seven
percentage points, from 36% in 2010.
Men were even more likely to say their household has a gun. This year
52% of men reported a gun in their house or on their property -- also
seven points higher than in 2010, when 45% said so.
The gender gap is more pronounced when people are asked who owns the
gun. Twice as many men as women say they own a gun -- 46% of men, 23% of
These results come from Gallup's Oct. 6-9 crime poll, which also found
that public support for Americans' right to bear arms has hit an all
time high. When asked whether there should be a law banning possession
of handguns, nearly three-quarters said they opposed such a law. A
little more than a quarter supported such a law.
It's unclear, however, whether more households actually have guns.
Perhaps more people feel comfortable admitting that they do.
Some other interesting details from the report:
47% of Americans report they have a gun in their home or elsewhere
on their property. That's the highest number Gallup has recorded since
1993, when 54% said so.
55% of Republicans admit having a gun on their property, compared
with 40% of Democrats. But that gap is shrinking. Last year, 52% of
Republicans said they had a gun on the property, compared with 32% of
Education level plays a role in whether someone owns a gun.
According to Gallup, 29% of college graduates say they personally own a
gun, compared with 40% of those without a college degree.