Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Sad Foolishness of the Gunloon

One of the great difficulties in arguing with gunloons is they don't understand basic math and believe science is a liberal conspiracy.

Case in point, some of the comments in response to my post on the General Social Survey (GSS) conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.  Here are two, related comments:

First up, our resident troll, 'Anonymous:'

Do you really expect gunloons to tell someone over the phone that they own guns?

Do you think that would skew the results?
Next up, frequent commenter 'TS,' who should know better:

Some people may not be getting on the internet or answering phone surveys. Call them secretive or paranoid- whichever you want.

First, it should be noted the GSS is one of the most respected and utilized surveys in this country.  In fact, only one other survey is used more--the US Census.  So,  it's not as if this is some rinky-dink survey conducted by a junior high student.

As such, professional surveys such as the GSS, understand--and account--for respondents who may lie or answer erroneously for some reason such as not understanding the question or some other reason.  That's why all surveys or polls of this kind note a margin of error (MoE).  Our resident crackpot, Anon, would have us believe three things: 1. ) most or all gunloon respondents lie about their ownership of guns; 2.) no non-gunowners lie about their non-ownership; and 3.) gunloons choose to lie rather than refusing to respond.  This is the only way respondents can skew a survey of this size; there would have to be a massive and concerted effort by one segment of the population to both elect to participate and lie and mislead, while the other segment answers completely truthfully.

As an aside, isn't it interesting gunloons believe Kleck's 2.5M DGUs annually survey is perfectly valid--a survey in which gunloons are brandishing and sometimes shooting their firearms--while a much larger survey involving gun ownership is completely bogus?

WRT TS's comment--if one chooses not to participate in a survey, one is a non-respondent.  But it's important to understand that such surveys are extremely accurate.  It's called statistical inference where we can make accurate inferences about a large population from a smaller sample.


  1. You didn’t even come close to touching on my point. I was addressing the ridiculous assertion that a few bloggers posting pictures of their guns means something.

    Look Jade, I think this survey is great news. If the gun owner population is in decline (and well under 50%)- yet we have gained back rights over that same time, it means that the second amendment right is not tied to popularity. The “use it or lose it” principle is not in affect. It has got to be devastating to gun control advocates, which is why I can’t figure out why Sugarmann keeps pushing this. I would think it would be an embarrassment.

    So what point are you trying to make? This is the equivalent of pointing to a phone survey asking the question “are you a homosexual?”, and then plotting the answers over time and then saying, “Look, homosexuality is decreasing- therefore we must preserve the sanctity of marriage.”

  2. I really want your survey to be true, but I am having some issues with your claims. So let’s work this out together:

    The VPC link doesn’t say anything about how they account for lies. In fact it clearly used the word “reported”, as in this is how many people said they owned guns. Why do they phrase it that way if this is adjusted for accurate indication of gun ownership?

    1. ) most or all gunloon respondents lie about their ownership of guns

    All it takes is a small percentage to start altering the curve- it doesn’t take all or most (it is not like their numbers approach zero percent). It also takes a change over time of people’s answers. As the fight over gun rights heats up, more and more people are not going to trust the confidentiality of the survey.

    2.) no non-gunowners lie about their non-ownership.

    Well, what is their motivation for lying? The motivation on the gun owning side is that a lot of people are strongly against registration, and they might look at a government survey as a form of registration. You know the type. So what is the motivation for a non-gun owner to claim they own guns? Is it that gun control advocates are always compelled to lie?

    3.) gunloons choose to lie rather than refusing to respond.

    They may feel a non-answer as being the same as a yes answer. “Who wants to know??? I am not answering that!” is an indication of a fore-mentioned gun owner who doesn’t trust their government. Again, you know the type- you know they are out there.

  3. TS, I think you're tying yourself in knots to justify your position.

    As one who has done a great deal with statistics as part of my professional career, I can say with great authority that it would take a large effort by a significant portion of the respondants to throw off the data enough to matter, and they would have to coordinate their answers in some manner (otherwise it would show up as a high standard deviation beyond the confidence interval seen in this study).

    If this were strictly a web survey, I might believe a conspiracy theory such as that (I demonstrated this very successfully using a simple survey at New Trajectory some time ago --, but with random phone surveys and sample size like this, this is practically impossible to do.

  4. Baldr, Ok. But what does this gain for you? This only means that you can't infringe on the second amendment just because it is losing popularity. That is exactly what rights are for.

  5. It also gives me hope that maybe some day California, where gun owners will always be a small minority, can turn around.

  6. I'm not too interested in this survey but I sure got a kick out of Jadegold's diagram.

    Find "X"