About That Survey

Seems this turd just won’t flush:

The poll, done for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, found that 76 percent of gun owners think people on the terrorist watch list should be barred from buying guns, and 68 percent were in favor of measures requiring gun owners to tell police if their guns are lost or stolen. The NRA has opposed such measures.

The May survey by Republican pollster Frank Luntz surveyed 945 gun owners nationwide, half of them “current or lapsed” members of the NRA. It has a margin of error of plus or minus three points.

Now I’m not a statistician, so I can’t really say if 945 is a significant number to reflect on all US gun owners…still there’s a reason why he says “Nationwide” in his methods. Of course the groups could be different from location to location. A Gun Owner in Boston Mass might see the issue differently than somebody from Northern Maine, or from Florida, hell I suspect there might be some differences in opinions between Houston Texas and say Waco.

But what about the Methods?

Let’s step away from guns for a second. When my wife was finally ready to be discharged from the hospital after brain surgery, the discharge order came in the evening, so when we were given the prescriptions for medications, the hospital pharmacy was closed, but they noted that a pharmacy up the street was still open for another hour. So scripts in hand I walked up the street to fill my wife’s prescriptions before she could finally come home.

Now, you might guess, but having one’s skull cut open does come with a fair bit of pain, so in this order I got some fairly powerful opiate-based painkillers. Now I can’t remember the name of this drug, but it wasn’t one of the “Big Ones” that you hear about in the news…I don’t even know if it has a street value, but I knew what it was and suspected it did.

So here I was, in the evening in the city of Boston walking down the street with a bag of opioid pain killers. The last thing I wanted was for this little bag to get snatched from me: A) Because my wife needed the stuff, and B) with the concern for abuse things might not be so simple as “Hey, Doc, write me another script, and we’ll get the hell out of your hair!”.

After she had fully recovered there were pills remaining in the bottle. We took them to the local police for disposal (I guess we could have flushed them, but I’ve read that can contaminate the local water supply), I didn’t want pills in my home that nobody was using, but somebody might want for illegal reasons. I know somebody who did jail time for just this rap. He’d knock on somebody’s door and ask if he could rake their leaves, shovel their snow, clean the yard. Easy manual labor, and the people he’d proposition were all elderly. He’d do the job, accept his payment…but then ask if he could use their bathroom before he left. They’d let him in, and while the door was shut in the WC he’d pilfer the place for anything he could sell or use as drugs.

Now having heard that, imagine you’re sitting at home and the phone rings and the caller says “Hello, we’re from the XYZ Phone Survey company, and we’d like to know if you or anybody in your home is using, or has used and still has remainders of Opioid pain killers, such as Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Percocet, Codeine, etc….”

If you don’t I guess you can say “No” and end the survey…weather that’s true or not, but what if you’re recovering from a surgery, or you still have that bottle your doctor gave you when you broke your arm in the back of the medicine chest. Then you wonder, is this survey legit? Most of our names and addresses are in the phone book, and even if we’re unlisted there are ways of finding that information. There are also ways to spoof a caller ID, not that most survey calls I get look like anything in particular. Is this a survey, or is this a Phising Trip?

Now let’s go to Luntz. I’m an open gun owner here, and when I’m getting together with 2nd Amendment activists or hanging out with friends, but I don’t wear it on my sleeve. I don’t wear NRA apparel, I don’t have 2nd Amendment stickers on my car, or signs on my home. My carry permit is buried in my wallet and takes a little digging to extract it. The reason is simple, I don’t want the WRONG people to know I have guns. The reasons are simple, criminals can’t LEGALLY buy guns, say in gun shops, or even from Private sales as many private sellers don’t want to risk a federal felony from selling to a shady customer, so the black market is very high for guns. That’s not a target I want on my back. Also while my guns have killed nobody, and its my full intention of NEVER having them kill a person, the event that that DOES happen it will likely be self-defense. Now my guns get stolen…chances are they become used by the drug trade and very well WILL be used in a murder. That’s also not something I’m a fan of.

So if a stranger starts asking about my guns, I’m lying, or I’m ending the call. From this Luntz survey that would take me out of the data pool. Meanwhile let’s look at the few remaining Fudds. They’re assured that nobody is coming for their guns! Their guns are OLD! Their guns are WOOD! Their guns are used for HUNTING and TARGET PRACTICE! Their guns don’t hold many rounds…etc. Those people might not care one way or another who knows what they have, heck I know several hunters who simply hang the deer gun on the wall, or set it in a closet at the end of deer season. No protection, no secrecy, and its possible you could walk off with one and they might not even notice for MONTHS!

Do you think there might be a difference of opinions about guns, gun rights, and the Second Amendment between these two groups?

Of course the best evidence is the fact that gun control groups are totally stalled in America. They’re stuck running defense, opposing new lest restrictive laws, or fighting against the repeal of old laws that never worked in the first place. Now the antis claim that the gun control movement is being crushed by the bull elephant that is the NRA. But if this survey is correct a majority of the NRA’s members oppose what the NRA does. Where is the discord? Where is the “Common Sense” revolt? Are NRA members blind sheep? Odd given that I’ve been to two conventions and know a ton a members, and they sure don’t seem that way.

Also if non-NRA gun owners are so in favor of these restrictions pushed by the anti-gun lobby, why are the anti-gun lobbies dying? Wouldn’t these non-NRA moderates be sending them money to help them fight the Behemoth?

Luntz results sounds a lot like that urban legend about some engineers studying the aerodynamic forces of the bumblebee and kept coming up with the conclusion that bumblebees can’t possibly fly.

Its a funny story (and as far as I can tell, not true) and its humor comes from the fact that all you need to do is walk into a field on a summer day and WATCH the bumblebees flying from flower to flower. Its also funny for the common man to see a group of intellectuals get stumped by something. Of course as a scientist I’ll note that problems like this come up all the time. You get a result that is impossible or unlikely, it simply means your model was wrong. This is just the same as the “Climate Change” people (then calling it the “Greenhouse Effect”) claiming NYC would be underwater by now. Its not, you can walk up Broadway and not even need a boat! Why? The answer is simple, the model was wrong.

The answer is simple here as well, Luntz’s survey is wrong as well, because his results cannot be observed in nature.

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10 Responses to About That Survey

  1. Gen says:

    I don’t know actual numbers, but 945 people does not seem to me to be a good representative sample of ALL the gun owners in this country… there were more people than that in my highschool. There’s no way that’s even 5% (or 1%?) of the total gun-toting population. I claim invalid survey.

  2. Jake says:

    IIRC, the stumbling block on the “bumblebees can’t fly” thing was that it was impossible for the nerve impulses to cycle fast enough for them to flap their wings fast enough for the aerodynamics to work. Then somebody realized that the muscles reacted to a single nerve impulse with a repeated flapping (i.e., one impulse = 10 flaps). Without that knowledge, the models for bumblee flight didn’t work.

    Of course, you and I know (and anyone that understands science) that this means the models were wrong, or missing critical information. Sadly, far to many people don’t understand even the basics of how science works.

  3. Greg Camp says:

    Statistics was a long time ago for me, but the survey size sounds possibly good enough. The problems are in the details. Was the survey a fair sampling of all gun owners or only the ones who were willing to answer? Did the people who responded give honest answers? Were the questions asked rigged toward a desired result? It’s not big deal to ask questions that skew the data. The broader question is whether human beings are capable of being interpreted on the basis of statistical surveys in the first place. The mathematics behind statistics is designed to study gaseous particles, not persons with intelligence and will.

  4. Jack says:

    Every model is wrong ;p

    That’s why the more important thing is to figure out how wrong the model is and under what circumstances it’s results can be a valid predictive tool.

    In examples like the above we see textbook confirmation bias. The Antis see that hey: wereally are popular, gun owners really do agree with us, the NRA has no popular support, the head cheerleader really does wanna make out.

    And we see another example of False Consciousness and Lakoff style frames at work.

    The biggest tells are that the results are pure Gun Culture 1.0 and that they do not distinguish with gun owners finding a current law to be acceptable and wanting a new law to be applied.

    In that survey both results are counted as the same support of gun control.

  5. J says:

    My work and research both require some statistical analysis. Without getting into the weeds too far the I’ll bet that N was big enough of a sample if the confidence level is somewhere around four (based on Oct. 2011 census data showing 47% of Americans have a gun in the home. Don’t really feel like clicking through to see if survey methods are posted but, if they’re not, that’s always a little bit of a red flag.

    On the other hand, as my quantitative methods professor once said, “Surveys represent the perspectives of those willing to chat on the phone with a stranger in the middle of eating dinner about invariably boring or divisive topics.”

    • Weerd Beard says:

      And when it comes to firearms ownership, that may not be a topic you want to share with any old Joe on the street, let alone an un-solicited phone call during dinner.

  6. TS says:

    Weerd: “The answer is simple here as well, Luntz’s survey is wrong as well, because his results cannot be observed in nature.”

    And his company advertises that they get the result you want to see. That is a pretty big one.

    Weerd: “And when it comes to firearms ownership, that may not be a topic you want to share with any old Joe on the street, let alone an un-solicited phone call during dinner.”

    True, though if I felt the survey was legit, I would be compelled to answer in the most pro-gun way possible (as someone who is active in the debate).

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