Why opinion polls rarely align with gun laws
By Christen Smith
Protesters call for House Speaker Paul Ryan to allow votes on gun violence prevention legislation in Washington, D.C., on July 6, 2016. (Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
It’s a familiar pattern for American voters: a mass shooting followed by political grandstanding and congressional hand-wringing to “get something done” about killers with guns. Advocacy groups march through Washington. Elected officials shout down cable news hosts. Polls indicate public support for tougher restrictions reach new heights.
This rarely translates into more gun laws at the federal level, however. The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month even spurred a brand new policy proposal — banning rifle sales to anyone under age 21 — in a decades-old debate over the role of regulation in preventing gun-related violence.
But will this — or any of the other policy positions so widely touted as supported by the majority — turn into law? Probably not, according to pollster, political scientist and college professor Harry Wilson.
Wilson, a member of the National Rifle Association, teaches public affairs at Roanoke College in western Virginia and identifies three main reasons why opinion polls — with their sky-high rates of agreement among all demographics and partisan leanings — rarely align with federal gun policy.
“I have examined the issue from different perspectives,” he said