For months now, a majority of Americans have repeatedly told pollsters that they want stricter gun-control legislation both in general and specifically. On the matter of requiring that a background check be run on everyone who seeks to buy a firearm, for example, the majority is overwhelming, often 90 percent of respondents or more. Majorities also back limits on the capacity of gun magazines and, in almost every poll, they also support the most contentious proposed legislation of all, a renewed ban on military-style assault weapons.
But, like the Quinnipiac poll that includes those two questions above, polls often show that a slight plurality of voters thinks Republicans are more to be trusted on gun legislation than President Obama is. That's so even though President Obama supports enacting such new laws and most Republicans do not. Unless, of course, they can ensure that these new laws are toothless rather than strict.
Thus, despite the extensive outreach by Vice President Joe Biden, the president's point man on new gun legislation, and by the president himself, the message doesn't seem to be getting through.
But trust is a complicated issue that can be influenced by many things, both objective and subjective, including ignorance and bigotry. When people respond to a poll question on where they place their trust, a lot more goes into their answers than merely their opinion on the issue itself. Perhaps pollsters should ask questions not about trust, but rather along the lines of: President Obama says we should pass legislation requiring a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons and Republicans say we should not. Do you agree with the Republicans or the president?
Just being asked that question with its straightforward statement of fact would inform the respondent about who actually supports a particular piece of legislation and generate a more useful reply than a who-do-you-trust inquiry.
If most Americans really don't know that the vast majority of Republican legislators stubbornly oppose any of the new gun legislation that the majority of the population—those same Americans—say they support, then that kind of question may raise questions in their own minds. Like, for instance, if Obama supports what I support, and these Republicans don't support what I support, why do I trust them more?