Recently the Washington Post ran an article in which it reported that most Americans favored the recent gun control proposals that failed to gain approval in the U.S. Senate. In support of this story line, the Post relied on a poll it conducted jointly with ABC News. Readers will be shocked to learn that the Post article was not an objective analysis of a careful study of public opinion, but rather a regurgitation of the Post’s standard narrative on gun control, for which a poll question served as pretext.
The thrust of the piece was that the Senate is ignoring the will of the people, at least as divined by the Post. Having written previously of the sorts of pernicious provisions embodied in one of the bills that failed to find favor in the Senate, I was naturally curious to learn how the poll supporting the Post’s article had been framed.
The one and only question on “gun control” posed by the Post/ABC poll was this: “Do you think the Senate did the right thing or the wrong thing in rejecting expanded background checks?” The results came as no real surprise: only 17% said “right,” while 80% opined “wrong.” And voilà, the Post had a “story” to write that fits the mainstream media narrative in support of gun control.
But what if the poll had asked a few additional questions that come to mind. For example, “Do you think the Senate did the right thing or the wrong thing when it declined to make gifts or sales of firearms between members of the same family a federal crime punishable by five years in prison?”
Or how about this one: “Inasmuch as gun ownership has increased steadily over the past 20 years, and gun violence has decreased dramatically during the same period, was the Senate right or wrong to decline to impose substantial additional restrictions and costs on the ownership of firearms by law abiding citizens?”
These and the numerous similar questions might have been posed by a news organization genuinely interested in objective analysis and reporting on the issue. The answers, one suspects, would likely have led to a story considerably different from the one the Post wrote.
And that, of course, is why such bothersome questions are not asked by the Post. They know the “story” already, thank you very much, and they’ll see to it that the “facts” they find support it.
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