Did the Public Really Give Up on Gun Control?

Chuck Todd (cc photo: Tarek Rizk/Aspen Institute)

Chuck Todd (cc photo: Tarek Rizk/Aspen Institute)

On two Sunday shows this weekend, the hosts made the same point about the White House’s plan for modest gun control efforts: The public isn’t going along.

On NBC‘s Meet the Press (3/31/13), guest host Chuck Todd said this:

We’ve seen the polling. We know the president came out and urged and noted, it was less than a hundred days. We’ve seen the polling that support for stricter gun laws is slipping.

He touched on it again with one guest, former Obama adviser David Axelrod:

TODD: The president–one thing he’s used the bully pulpit for is to try to re-energize this issue of the gun debate. But the polls are sort of speaking pretty loud here. Public doesn’t seem to have the same desire as him.

AXELROD: Well, yes and no. If you look at that same CBS poll you cited, 90 percent still support background checks.

¬†On ABC‘s This Week (3/31/13), it was George Stephanopoulos‘ turn:

One thing that you don’t see moving in the president’s direction since the inaugural is support for his proposals on gun control…. Look at the latest poll from CBS. Support for gun control in December of 2012, 57 percent for new gun control laws, stricter gun control laws, now down to 47 percent.

That prompted this response from Nation editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel:

The fight is not over. You cite the CBS poll. Cite your own poll, the ABC poll, which when asked, not about stricter gun regulation, but about universal background checks, 90 percent support that. How many things in American do 90 percent of Americans support? Sixty percent, military-style assault weapon ban.

Indeed it is strange–but perhaps not surprising–that reporters treat these polls that ask a broad question about gun laws as if they are more important than the specific questions about precise policy questions. But it’s harder to understand why Stephanopoulos was citing the CBS 47 percent number, when ABC‘s own poll found 52 percent support stricter gun laws–not much of a shift since Newtown.

And what’s even more curious: NBC has its own recent poll that, as of late February, was still showing strong support for more strict gun laws–stronger than their immediate post-Newtown poll (courtesy of PollingReport.com):


Of course, it’s entirely likely that Congress will not reflect the public’s view on gun laws and will fail to do much of anything. But reporters shouldn’t blame that on the public–and leave it to liberal-leaning roundtable guests to point out the facts they’re leaving out of the discussion.


About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.