57% of likely 2016 voters ‘support allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns in public, including 40% who strongly feel this way.’
I usually don’t take “research” produced or disseminated by Everytown for Gun Safety very seriously, but browsing around their site recently I came across a memorandum by Kevin Ingham of Strategies 360, a Seattle-based political and corporate strategy firm (for lack of a better description).
The memorandum (which also appears below in full) summarized some of the results of a survey of 1,508 likely 2016 voters nationwide, conducted by Strategies 360 from 23-28 February 2015. (The margin of error for this sample size is +/- 2.5% at the 95% confidence level.) The selection of “likely 2016 voters” is obviously connected to Everytown’s political agenda, reminding us again that this poll was not conducted for purposes of advocacy not scientific understanding. I think it is worthwhile, nonetheless, to see what we can learn from it.
There were two questions of interest to me, one about concealed carry generally and one about permitless (a.k.a. “Constitutional”) carry. Neither question is phrased ideally, but the latter is phrased much worse than the former. I do not have access to the raw data, so my summary of the findings is based on the memorandum.
Carrying in General
Respondents to the survey were asked: “In general, do you think it should be legal or illegal to carry a concealed handgun in public places.”
I would have preferred for this question to specify whether the concealed carry required a license/permit or not. Some respondents probably assumed this was referring to licensed/permitted carry, while others might have imagined permitless carry. So, whatever positive responses there are to this question can probably be assumed to be a low estimate of people’s feelings toward licensed concealed carry.
In any event, the survey revealed that 57% of likely 2016 voters “support allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns in public, including 40% who strongly feel this way.” By contrast, 40% of respondents say that concealed carry ought to be illegal, including 32% who feel strongly about this.
Not surprisingly, the strongest supporters of lawful concealed carry among likely voters are gun owners (81%), Republicans (76%, compared to 39% of Democrats), conservatives (71%), and those living in the South (63%) and rural areas (70%). “The Northeast is the only region in which more voters oppose (49%) than support (46%).”
A majority of white likely voters support concealed carry (62%) and a majority of African American (54%) and Latino (53%) likely voters oppose it, as defined by this question, according to the memorandum.
The second question posed by Strategies 360 is by far more problematic. In full it reads:
Currently, most states require a permit to carry a concealed handgun in a public place. Typically, to obtain a permit, a person must pay a processing fee, complete a basic gun safety course and have a clean criminal record. Some have proposed removing the permit requirement and making it legal for gun owners to carry a concealed handgun without needing to go through a permitting process. Do you support or oppose allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns in public places if they don’t have a permit?
I am sure readers of this blog can highlight other problems, but the problem that struck me immediately was suggesting in the criteria for getting a permit that the individuals “have a clean criminal record,” which implies that in permitless carry the individual does not have to have a clean criminal record. But, of course, to legally carry without a permit once must be able to legally possess the gun being carried. This is elided in the way the question was phrased.
With this phrasing, the memorandum reports that “voters almost unanimously oppose concealed carry without a permit (11% support, 88% oppose).” In addition,
- Intensity of opposition is very high. 79% of voters are strongly
- Every region of the country expresses opposition, including the West (88% opposed), Midwest (89%), South (85%) and Northeast (90%).
- Even gun owners (80% oppose) and those with a concealed carry permit (78% oppose) take a strong stand in opposition.
- Bipartisan opposition reaches rare levels, including 95% of Democrats, 88% of independents, and 80% of Republicans.
I don’t know what percentage of the American public actually supports or opposes permitless carry. But I would like to know. Unfortunately, this survey’s awkwardly phrased question does not get us much closer to knowing.
Full text of the memorandum follows.