Sign calling for a ban on assault weapons
A sign calling for a ban on assault weapons, captured at the March for Our Lives 2022 in Washington, D.C. by Victoria Pickering.

For the sec­ond time in as many days, Sur­veyUSA and its Wash­ing­ton State part­ners have released a key poll find­ing that val­i­dates NPI’s research.

Yes­ter­day, Sur­veyUSA’s find­ing of a dou­ble dig­it lead for Pat­ty Mur­ray in the 2022 Unit­ed States Sen­ate race was released and report­ed on by The Seat­tle Times and KING5. Today, the focus is Wash­ing­ton’s sup­port for an assault weapons ban.

Sur­veyUSA found that 61% of respon­dents favor a ban and 34% are opposed.

We showed last month that a major­i­ty of like­ly 2022 vot­ers (56% in our sur­vey) sup­port a ban on assault weapons, with 52% in strong sup­port.

We also found 38% opposed and 8% not sure.

We rolled out the data in Kent at a press con­fer­ence with Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son, State Sen­a­tor Man­ka Dhin­gra, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jami­la Tay­lor, and Emi­ly Cantrell of the Alliance for Gun Respon­si­bil­i­ty.

Each local Seat­tle tele­vi­sion sta­tion cov­ered our press con­fer­ence, and each pub­lished a sto­ry about what we found. After those sto­ries ran, right wing activists and trolls began attack­ing our research, argu­ing it could­n’t be credible.

“Less than 1,100 sur­veyed,” griped a com­menter call­ing them­selves Dan Barn­hart, not real­iz­ing that a sam­ple size of 1,100 is huge for a state-lev­el poll. “What a joke. That is far less than 1% of this states pop­u­la­tion. You put these bogus sur­veys out lead­ing peo­ple to think thats [sic] what the major­i­ty want. In fact you sur­vey peo­ple in masse [sic] until you find a per­cent­age you want!”

The joke is on Barn­hart. What mat­ters in polling is not the size of the sam­ple, but how rep­re­sen­ta­tive it is. It isn’t fea­si­ble to call mil­lions of peo­ple simul­ta­ne­ous­ly and get their opin­ion. Nor is it nec­es­sary to obtain cred­i­ble, valid data. That is why poll­sters build sam­ples. Like a scale mod­el, a sam­ple is a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the views of an entire pop­u­la­tion or sub­set of the pop­u­la­tion, like the elec­torate. All poll­sters use sam­ples, regard­less of who they work for or are aligned with, and most state-lev­el polls uti­lize sam­ples of 400, 450, 500, or 600.

“If the sur­vey is done cor­rect­ly, it could be accu­rate,” said some­one called “Alas­ka on a motor­cy­cle,” respond­ing to Barn­hart. “How­ev­er, my bet is the sur­vey was done in Seat­tle. A high per­cent­age of those want communism.”

Wrong, “Alas­ka on a motor­cy­cle.” Most of the peo­ple who took our June 2022 statewide sur­vey weren’t from Seat­tle or even King Coun­ty. Our sur­vey found that even vot­ers in East­ern and Cen­tral Wash­ing­ton back an assault weapons ban.

“Think about it, a pro­gres­sive polling group only polled 1,200-ish peo­ple,” sneered Tim Tay­lor. “Of course the [sic] polled their vot­ers. Most of them are unable to make their own deci­sions and fol­low the spout­ed jargon.”

Actu­al­ly, our sur­vey includ­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tive per­cent­ages of Trump vot­ers, Repub­li­cans, and inde­pen­dents along with Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers and Biden vot­ers. It was­n’t just pro­gres­sives who were interviewed.

A sam­ple can’t be rep­re­sen­ta­tive if only one seg­ment of the elec­torate is includ­ed. And if a sam­ple is not rep­re­sen­ta­tive, then the ensu­ing data will be worthless.

The week after we unveiled our find­ing, Bon­neville’s Dori Mon­son added his voice to the right wing cho­rus trash­ing our work. In a rant on his show, Mon­son griped that NPI’s research should­n’t have got­ten the cov­er­age it did and scold­ed reporters and pro­duc­ers for tak­ing our cred­i­ble, rig­or­ous polling seriously.

Here we are about one month lat­er. The valid­i­ty of our assault weapons ban research has now been affirmed by an entire­ly sep­a­rate poll backed by KING5, The Seat­tle Times, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Washington’s Cen­ter for an Informed Pub­lic, and Wash­ing­ton State University’s Mur­row Col­lege of Communication.

Sur­veyUSA’s find­ing of 61% for an assault weapons ban sug­gests that sup­port may have grown in a bit in the past month, since it’s a few per­cent­age points high­er than what we found. How about that, eh Dori?

Mean­while, the gun lob­by opt­ed to respond by cir­cu­lat­ing a nation­al poll find­ing from Quin­nip­i­ac to claim that sup­port for ban­ning assault weapons is decreasing.

“Sec­ond Amend­ment Foun­da­tion founder and Exec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent Alan M. Got­tlieb said this is clear evi­dence the pub­lic is wak­ing up to the real­i­ty that gun bans are not the answer to vio­lent crime,” one press release said.

Actu­al­ly, data shows — and the rest of the world com­mu­ni­ty’s expe­ri­ence proves — that keep­ing guns out of the hands of peo­ple who should­n’t have them works. Oth­er advanced coun­tries have extreme­ly low rates of gun vio­lence because they have passed strong gun safe­ty laws that pro­tect their people.

The gun lob­by may not agree with our pro­posed ideas for address­ing gun vio­lence, includ­ing an assault weapons ban. But cred­i­ble, rig­or­ous data shows that our ideas are pop­u­lar. The peo­ple like them. They want them.

Wash­ing­to­ni­ans have vot­ed for three con­sec­u­tive gun safe­ty ini­tia­tives (in 2014, 2016, and 2018) and every gun safe­ty idea we’ve ever test­ed in our polling has found major­i­ty sup­port, includ­ing ban­ning high-capac­i­ty mag­a­zines and pro­hibit­ing the car­ry­ing of guns at local gov­ern­ment meet­ing places and elec­tion sites. Now, our assault weapons ban polling has been inde­pen­dent­ly cor­re­lat­ed by anoth­er one of the most trust­wor­thy poll­sters in the industry.

Our thanks to Sur­veyUSA and its part­ners for ask­ing this ques­tion and pub­lish­ing the results. It’s great to have this data avail­able to study.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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