The recent Angus Reid survey exaggerates support for gun bans:
“Canadians appear to come to more consensus, regarding proposed policy responses. Six-in-ten Canadians (61%) say they would support an outright ban on civilian possession of handguns – something being pushed for by some of the country’s largest cities. The support level jumps to three-quarters (75%) when considering a ban on assault weapons.
“Further, there is significant support for proposals to strengthen elements of the licensing and purchase process, including expanded background checks and comprehensive tracking of gun sale records. This includes majority support from current and former gun owners.”
The key weaknesses of this survey:
Question wording is slanted to support government proposals,
Definitions of “assault rifle” and “high-capacity magazine” are incorrect and misleading,
Support for gun bans decreases with knowledge of current gun laws,
Sample selection is not representative [it is a panel of volunteers, not a random sample], and
Report inadequately points out the limitations of their findings.
Angus Reid conducts solid trustworthy surveys — they are among the best, if not the best, in Canada. This survey was not paid for by the Canadian Government. The high standards of ARI is demonstrated by their extraordinary willingness to make the details of their results and methodology widely available. Nevertheless, it has a few weaknesses that tend to overstate support for gun bans.
It is easy to get people to voice support for proposals that dominate the news; Global warming, gun control, immigration, generously giving money away. Whatever is trendy. Pollsters have long known about this problem and typically take steps to verify to assess the likelihood of the respondents acting on their stated opinions. These steps are missing in this survey report.
“Assault rifle” is incorrectly defined.
Even the police are adamant that what the survey calls “assault rifles” are not true assault rifles — because they are not capable of firing fully automatic.
Actual assault rifle in Canada are already prohibited.
The Colt and Daniel Defence rifles police use are exactly the same as can be bought by properly validated citizens for target use because they are not assault rifles.
Blue Line police force magazine Dec 15, 2017, p17, “Police carbines are not military-style ‘assault rifles’ because they have no full-automatic capability, but they are built to the same high standard as military firearms.”
High-capacity Magazines Poorly Explained
The description in the poll mentions high capacity magazines but did not clarify that these MUST be pinned to 5 rounds only. Nor did the brief explanation mention that being caught with any modification or illegal magazine is a serious indictable offence.
Another example: the classic question about banning handguns traditionally includes a phrase that allows properly vetted civilians to own handguns. For some reason, that phrase was not included. Past surveys have found support for properly vetted people owning guns.
Canadian gun law is exceptionally complex
Few gun owners really understand the laws. Few police do either.
Note how respondents over estimate how knowledgeable they are about gun laws.
Support for Bans Higher Among Those Ignorant of Gun Laws
Support for gun bans and further restrictions on firearms licensees tends to be higher among those who admit to knowing less about gun laws. This suggests that the issue is low priority for the respondent, which implies that action on the basis of this opinion is probably unlikely.
This survey is based on the Angus Reid volunteer panel — it is not a ‘random sample’ of Canadians. By definition, panels are only crudely representative samples. Panels are biased by only interviewing the motivated people who join this panel …. such volunteers are by definition not representative of rest of Canadians.
In fairness, random samples have other problems that bedevil their results as well. To know how representative the Angus Reid panel actually is I’d like to see the success rate for the ARI panel predicting elections vs random sampling polls. Representativity is as important as wording or how well informed the Rs actually are.
Do not confuse survey ‘opinions’ with willingness to take action.
Agreeing or disagreeing with a survey question need not indicate a strong opinion. Weak opinion support rarely translates into meaningful action.
How many of those who tell pollsters they believe that global warming is due to human causes actually pay more for eco or ‘green’ products? How many drive electric cars or support politicians who push fears about climate change? It’s the same with gun control.
In the detailed cross tabs (available at the Angus Reid website), Angus Reid looks at the how opinions vary with levels of the respondents’ claimed knowledge.
Gun control will not be one of the key voting issues for respondents who support gun bans;
but it will be for gun owners who oppose bans.