I was interested to learn recently about the SOUL Study — SOUL here standing for SOial gUn cuLture.
The terrible acronym here, unfortunately, is matched by the poor quality of the survey being fielded.
Although I am particularly sensitive to those who say they are studying American gun culture, here I think an objective analysis of the survey yields this conclusion.
In the first place, the study purports to be “designed to understand social gun culture among adult US residents (citizens and non-citizens) who currently use social media.” But few of the 77 total questions ask about participation in social gun culture.
The principal investigator is somewhat more honest in the flier put together to publicize the study, which makes clear the primary interest is in gun violence and gun control, not gun culture.
Which is fine, but don’t pretend you are studying something you are not.
Also, for a study that was sanctioned by the Institutional Review Board of Boston University’s School of Medicine, I am shocked that the principal investigator was allowed to advertise the study one way and describe it in the actual instrument in another.
I’m also disappointed in the number of grammatical errors there are in the survey (e.g., “ban of”; “Do you think that workplaces should allow either conceal or open carry of guns?”; “Do you favor a ban of civilian ownership of semi-automatic [AR-15 style]?”). This makes all social researchers look bad.
Furthermore, I require undergraduate students to be more precise in their survey question construction than this survey demonstrates. “Do you think it is okay to allow guns in schools?” Okay? O-kay. What guns? Whose guns?
“Do you support guns in restaurants and public places?” Are restaurants not public places? What constitutes public places? Is a government building a public place? What if I support guns in public places but not restaurants, or vice versa?”
Two questions about bans — one for “assault rifles” and one for “semi-automatic (AR-15 style)” (sic.) rifles? Is the author here actually distinguishing between actual assault rifles (already largely banned) and AR-15 style semi-automatic rifles? Who knows?
Anyone who struggles their way through 75 vague, confusing, and grammatically incorrect questions will be rewarded with one question which sort of addresses the question of social gun culture.
But who that is interested and involved in social gun culture will actually complete this survey? I know I did not.
And since this survey has a self-selected sample, what will be the meaning of the responses anyway?
Of course, this is not the first time the principal investigator of this study has undermined the credibility of public health research on guns. And it probably won’t be the last. The best we can hope is that no public monies will be wasted on such poor quality scholarship.