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June 11, 2015

Biased Survey Yields Biased Results

Remember the December 2014 Pew Research Center poll that showed a majority of Americans believe that it is more important to protect the right to own firearms than to control gun ownership? Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health are deeply concerned that the results are flawed because the respondents were led to their answers by the wording, not the actual content of the question. These researchers were so concerned they took it upon themselves to do their own poll.

Considering the notably anti-firearm bend of the Bloomberg School and the funding from the Mayor’s own slush fund, “Bloomberg Philanthropies,” it’s no surprise that their poll attempts to draw different conclusions.  Using their own loaded, and downright inaccurate language, the researchers argue that a majority of respondents support banning modern sporting rifles. Of course, their description of these popular firearms was, “military-style, semiautomatic assault weapons that are capable of shooting more than 10 rounds of ammunition without reloading.”

A common tool of gun control advocates, the biased language used here no doubt had a heavy influence on how the questions were answered. Even beyond the issue of “priming,” as the Bloomberg School researchers describe the “bias” of the Pew survey, the researchers also rely on a web panel, which may skew liberal and the self-selection issue is a problem. Those passionate about gun control are far more likely to answer an internet survey about gun control.

To add to the irony here, the Bloomberg School poll was published in a medical journal, Preventative Medicine. Meanwhile, a national poll commissioned by NSSF found Americans do not see the unfortunate incidents of violence committed with firearms as a public health issue. An overwhelming 84 percent of survey respondents said gun violence is a criminal justice issue, rather than a public health issue, such as viruses. This raises the question of why a public opinion poll on gun control would even be considered for such a journal. Perhaps the country is facing a shortage of research on disease prevention and actual public health concerns.

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Tags: Bloomberg government relations gun control NSSF Pew Research poll public health research

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