The Myth of the "90 Percent" Support for Failed Background Check Bill

Categories: Survey Says...

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Image: 7reasons.org
We can't tell you precisely why several U.S. senators, including Jeff "Pond Scum" Flake, voted against a bill aimed at expanding background checks for gun purchases.

Sure, the powerful NRA likely had some influence. But how could anyone vote against something that 90 percent of Americans want?

One possible answer is that the skeptical senators knew the "90 percent" figure has always been soft. That's certainly true of Arizona, whose residents supported a general background check expansion by 70 percent, not 90.

See also: Jeff Flake Thinks His Popularity Is "Somewhere Just Below Pond Scum"

Nationwide, a Gallup poll taken a week after the Senate vote indicated that only 65 percent of Americans thought the Senate should have passed a bill to "expand background checks for gun purchases," with 29 percent saying the Senate should not have passed it.

That's much lower than 90 percent support, obviously.

Also interesting: The new poll showed that general support for an expanded background check law fell from 91 percent in mid-January to 83 percent.

Both the general question and the one asking about the failed Senate bill were light on details.

It seems reasonable to guess that if recent polls had asked specifically about the actual provisions of the Machin-Toomey bill, results lower than 90 percent -- or even 65 percent -- might have been obtained.

Gallup says that a minor wording change in the question may have played a role in reducing the perceived general support from 91 percent to 83 percent.

In January, Gallup asked the public if they supported a law that would "require criminal background checks for all gun sales." This month, the wording was "require background checks for all gun purchases."

The apparent reduction in support could also be that the bill's failure "deflated" Americans' support for it, Gallup says.

But if a minor change in wording was responsible, it seems clear that different verbiage could have played havoc on the poll numbers.

"The bill is 49 pages long: Does the 90 percent relate to the 49 pages of law that they're talking about?" asks Alan Korwin, local gun-rights advocate and author. "They're lying to your face on the surface of it."

Korwin also suggested that if the polls would show that Americans are highly skeptical that expanded background checks would do much to curb gun violence. He points out that a self-reported national survey of police in March showed that the vast majority cops believe that President Obama's gun-control suggestions would have no effect on their safety.

Most Americans may well believe that expanded background checks are a good thing; some of the senators who voted "no," like Flake, saw their popularity ratings drop.

But did 90 percent of Americans really want this bill? Apparently not.

In fact, it's probably impossible to get nine out of 10 Americans to agree on the specific details of anything.

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14 comments
1911flash
1911flash

The bills that were voted down had nothing to do with criminals and everything to do with law abiding citizens and control.  The Boston bombing is a example what a criminal will do to get a gun. They wanted a pistol so they ambushed a police officer and killed him just for his gun. Criminals buy on the black market, probably a stolen gun or they get someone to sell them a gun not knowing they are selling a gun to a criminal. Most people are real careful who they sell a gun to but the citizen needs a phone number to call to see if the person is ok to buy a gun and this is not available in many states but should be. The gun problem is a administration problem and they are trying to blame it on the gun laws. Out of 67,000 people turned down by the current background check only 44 were prosecuted! When they ask the DOJ why the didn't prosecute the offenders, the response was they didn't have the time, but they want more laws?????  When the background check was made and the FBI found the person was a criminal they should have called to local police and had them run over to the gun store and pick up the person while he was waiting to be okayed. Apparently the other  66,956 went on to get a gun somewhere else. When they don't prosecute the laws we have why make more that will do nothing for crime and put the law abiding citizen in danger of it being used against him in the future by confiscation. We live in a world that will always have criminals and terrorist and when the average response time is 23 minutes for police to arrive, I want a firearm in my home for my own protection. The police poll showed that the majority said more law abiding citizens with guns is the way to curb crime, because they can not be everywhere! Twice I have been told by police that if you don't have a gun for your protection then you should get one!

We must remember we are a Republic!

66rock
66rock topcommenter

So 70 to 80% support is not enough then?  In fact why is 51% not enough.  It's called the majority, not something to be denied by our "leaders" who serve at our pleasure, for us.

helipilot
helipilot

@66rock We live in a constitutional republic, fella, and the constitution prevents majority mobs from abrogating the unalienable rights of the minority.  You must have been asleep in class when that principle was discussed.

66rock
66rock topcommenter

@helipilot @66rock  First of all, I'm not a fella, I'm a woman and no I was not asleep through anything.  So is 51% a majority or not?  Who is elected the candidate that wins the election, the one with 50% or 51%?  My post stands. 

66rock
66rock topcommenter

@entrouble @66rock   Reading problem?  My last sentence Again, " you guys want to debate which is MORE 50 or 51%".  Yes I can also add Mr trouble, but since I was not adding anything, it is moot.  What I don't know is why you even care or feel the need to argue this point as it was you who responding to my original post for some reason.


vx951
vx951

@johnmartindj @entrouble @66rock 

For many the devil was in the details.  The bill in the form that it was presented had flaws in the language.  If fact reading just one section it is a mess.  Nothing straight forward.  Nothing but junk legislation.  We deverve better. 

  Yes we are a republic.   That means while popular vote is for elections in that state.  Some states do have unicameral legislatures.  But even in those with out the big city sometime bullies the others. 

johnmartindj
johnmartindj

@entrouble @66rock a majority of voters in EVERY SINGLE STATE support background checks. What excuse will you come up with now to make sure guns are allowed into the hands of ANYBODY WHO WALKS INTO A GUN SHOW AND DOESN'T HAVE TO EVEN GIVE THIER NAME?

66rock
66rock topcommenter

@entrouble @66rock  My original post stands and my opinion on an opinion page, not a debate at all.  

entrouble
entrouble

@66rock @entrouble I understand so you want to debate if the person who got 50 or 51% would win.  Well I vote neither since that adds up to 101%

66rock
66rock topcommenter

@entrouble @66rock  Although I agree about listening to constituents rather than polls, I would point out that Flake, and many others, refer to those "polls" whenever it benefits them.  BTW, I did not mention presidential elections. Really you guys want to debate which is more 50% or 51%, LOL.  

entrouble
entrouble

@66rock@66rock Actually someone who got 50% of the vote could win an election.  In fact in our system a president can be elected without the popular vote.  And as far as how Senators vote, I do not want them looking at national polls done by biased groups.  They should listen to their constituents.  That is the way the system is designed.  In fact, the way this past Senate vote worked is exactly how it should have happened.  the Senate is designed so that all states have equal votes.  That way populace states like California and New York and Texas cannot bully smaller states like Rhode Island or the Dakotas.

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