New England College Will Not Defend Their Data in Assault Weapons Ban Poll

by Rick Olson

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” —Benjamin Disraeli 

On Friday the Union Leader (John Distaso)reported  that New England Colleges’ Dr. Ben Tafoya conducted  a poll of 656 “registered voters”  showing that 72 percent of Granite Staters support an assault weapons ban and 88 percent favored “universal background checks”.

According to the UL story, the poll conducted on January 21 and 22 asked two direct questions:

(Should) “assault weapons” should be banned; and “Do you support the idea of universal background checks for gun purchases?”

According to the Union Leader and the NEC Poll, men favored an “assault weapons” ban, 64 to 34 percent and women favored the ban 80 to 16 percent. UL aptly points out no definition or  explanation of an “assault weapon,” was provided.

“It is a broad poll question, but we are confident people know and understand the definition of an assault weapon,” Scott Spradling a spokeman for NEC told the Union Leader.

“New Hampshire voters show surprisingly strong support for these gun control moves,”

NEC poll director Dr. Ben Tafoya said in a statement.

“There are deep and lasting effects on the public from the heightened level of sensitivity toward these issues in light of the tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn.,” Tafoya said.

It is imaginable that most in the pro-second amendment community were shocked, if not intrigued. I can certainly say that I was. But…NOT SO FAST…If we take this step by step we see a clearer picture emerge.  Registered voters…Progressives??

First, we look to nature and state of American Academia. In 2005, the Washington Posts’ Howard Kurz reported that College faculties, long assumed to be a liberal bastion, lean further to the left than even the most conspiratorial conservatives might have imagined.

These findings, by Lichter and fellow political science professors Stanley Rothman of Smith College and Neil Nevitte of the University of Toronto, are based on a survey of 1,643 full-time faculty at 183 four-year schools. The researchers relied on 1999 data from the North American Academic Study Survey, the most recent comprehensive data available.

Kurz tells us that 72 percent of American university and college faculties are liberal, while 15 percent identify as conservative, The imbalance becomes more striking in partisan terms, with 50 percent of the faculty members surveyed identifying themselves as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans.

The disparity is even more pronounced at the most elite schools, where, according to the study, 87 percent of faculty are liberal and 13 percent are conservative.

Robert Lichter, a professor at George Mason University and co-author of the study said, “What’s most striking is how few conservatives there are in any field. There was no field we studied in which there were more conservatives than liberals or more Republicans than Democrats. It’s a very homogenous environment, not just in the places you’d expect to be dominated by liberals.”

Finally, it is a well-know convention that colleges and Universities in the Northeast are decidedly very left-leaning. And, based on my own college experience I can tell you that clearly is the case.

So the first facet in evaluation of the above poll is that New England College has a left-leaning point of view. It is a college…in the Northeast.

Dr. Ben Tafoya, proud liberal-progressive

SECOND, The measure of the man (or woman) and what biases he (or she) bring to the table. Dr. Benjamin Tafoya. Dr. Tafoya is a proud and unashamed “progressive.” That is not name-calling. That is a stated fact. Simply look here for his personal advocacy. He is a gun grabber…anti-second amendment. It is easy for him to be so because he is not even a New Hampshire Resident. Dr. Tafoya resides in Reading Massachusetts.

Progressives want to take away all guns from citizens and cling to the view that only police and the military should have guns. That is a common thread within the progressive/liberal enclave. So why would it be such a stretch to bring that particular bias into a sham poll such as this one we saw in the UL?

Dr. Tafoya was contacted by me early Friday where I asked questions about sampling and methodology utilized to obtain the poll result. Dr. Tafoya ignored my queries.

FINALLY, We look to principles of polling to test the veracity of the result. The hallmark of any credible poll is that the author make the full source information available to its target audience.  Dr. Tafoya fails to do that, either in the UL or on the NEC website. Dr. Tafoya fails to identifying his source nor directly linking to his source.  That, in and of itself is reasonable grounds for suspicion. Dr. Tafoya simply wants readers to take his word as final authority.

There are three guiding principles in polling: First, questions must be worded clearly and in a neutral fashion, avoiding words likely to bias polled subjects toward or away from a particular point of view. Second,  the sample subjects should be randomly selected which is not to infer  haphazard or nonscientific means.  Every subject in a targeted or parent population should have the same chance of being sampled as any other. Third, the poll must be sufficiently large that the built-in sampling error is reasonably small.

Scott Spradling asserted that while the question was broad, NEC was confident, “People know and understand the definition of an assault weapon,”Really? One need only Google the question, “What is an assault weapon?” to find out that there has yet to be given a cogent clear, unbiased definition. We in the firearms community maintain the term, “assault weapon” is a political pejorative and a redundancy, given to achieve a political end, that is banning semi-automatic rifles.

In sum total, all we have is a poll from the Liberal New England College, conducted by a liberal-progressive professor who is above defending his poll data, using a misnomer that is more akin to push-polling and puking biased data on a reporter from the states’ largest Newspaper. The poll is neither credible or trustworthy because all of the anecdotal evidence of gun culture in the Granite State suggests his poll is wrong.

8:00 AM Update: New Hampshire Union Leader: (Tim Buckland) ‘Assault Weapon’ not easily defined

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