Should Alaskans trust recent PPP poll on gun control?

I’m a little late on reporting on the PPP poll released last week which shows both U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich having lost support in Alaska because of their opposition to the gun control bill. And if that and other polls about gun control conducted by PPP and paid for by a Democratic group wasn’t continuing to make headlines, I might continue to be late forever.

I’d chalk that poll up, as I have other PPP polls, to the kind of crackpot group that you find on both sides of the political spectrum intent on spreading propaganda and false narratives.

But the media can’t seem to get enough of the PPP gun polls, which have been conducted in at least five states, and are dutifully reported on even as some of the polls’ findings are patently absurd. Get this: according to PPP, only about 35 percent of Alaskans oppose expanded background checks.

Alaska-based Dittman Research, which tends to get these things right, recently conducted a poll for Alaska’s House majority which shows only 23 percent of Alaskans supported Obama’s efforts to tighten gun control laws, with 67 percent approving state legislative actions to oppose those efforts.

Was the PPP poll conducted solely on Homer residents or did it only poll those who live in Rep. Les Gara’s House district? We’ll never know because geographical location is among many things that are left out of the crosstabs.

I don’t know much about the other states that PPP has polled and I haven’t looked much into the crosstabs of the polls from those other states, but if they are as full of sample errors as the poll conducted in Alaska, then not one poll conducted by PPP should be taken seriously, perhaps ever again.

Here’s a few blatant examples of what a botched polling sample looks like, a la PPP:

  • Gender: Alaska is roughly 50 percent male to female, but the firm sampled 56 percent women to 44 percent men.
  • Party affiliation: Of the total registered voters in Alaska, only 14 percent are registered Democrats. About 27 percent are registered Republicans. The sample size that PPP used was 25 percent Democrats and 30 percent Republicans.
  • “Independents/other.” About 53 percent of registered voters are registered “undeclared,” and “nonpartisan.” Then there’s the Alaska Independence Party, which is a whole other breed of people, and the Libertarians.  The two of them make up about 6 percent of voters. The PPP’s sample lumps them all together, calls them “Independent/other,” and only uses a 45 percent sample size.

The errors go on. Let me be clear here: I think that Begich’s voting against his party on gun control was a decision based on political expediency more than principle. Everyone knows that Begich isn’t a gun enthusiast. He likely doesn’t believe that the federal government is going to invade homes of gun owners, or that a foreign force is going to somehow take over the military industrial complex, capture our soldiers and leave the defense of the homeland to those in the Kenai amassing assault weapons.

What Begich does care about and what he’s good at is politics and about getting reelected. His vote against gun control was evidence of that.

The upcoming Senate race is going to be a monster. Joe Miller has announced that he’s running, but the race will likely also draw a handful of good, solid Republicans like Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who’s already in exploratory committee phase, and DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan, who is said to be getting close to making a decision. A vote for gun control would have likely put the end to Begich’s Senate career.

So he had a choice: stand on principle and vote with his party, or lose the race and become the last Democratic senator Alaskans will likely see in this lifetime.

He might lose anyway, but now he stands a chance with the help of some Republicans and independent voters. What he doesn’t need is for some left leaning polling group, a group tied to the party to which Begich belongs, trying to sell a lie, in a state where many think that the left are a bunch of liars anyway.

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7 thoughts on “Should Alaskans trust recent PPP poll on gun control?

  1. John Vezina

    Ms. Coyne,

    While I agree with your assessment of PPP, your comment “Everyone knows Begich isn’t a gun enthusiast” both a figment of your imagination and factually incorrect. Senator Begich is a well known gun enthusiast who owns weapons, enjoys target practice, and for at least the last 20 years has been a strong advocate for the rights of gun ownership.

    In the 2008 US Senate race Begich must have sent out 8-10 mailings to gun owners promising, among other things, no new restricitons on gun ownership.

    Perhaps you needed to fit the ‘facts’ to the story you wanted to write or maybe when you wrote the names “Joe Miller”, “Lt. Governor Treadwell”, and “DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan” your brain automatically thought of people without integrity. Senator Begich should not be included in that list – his support for gun ownership is real, not political.

  2. Craig Lyon

    I take exception with your statement that “Everyone knows that Begich isn’t a gun enthusiast.” If you really know Mark then you would know that he is indeed a gun enthusiast. I’ve known Mark since the 7th grade (he was in the 8th) and I can assure you he has always been a gun owner and “enthusiast,” whatever that means to you. Senator Begich voted the way he did because he believes that. I’m very glad he supported my rights, and I think most Alaskans agree with him. Please do some research before you make such a blatantly incorrect statement. Of course by your standard I should not trust one statement you make.

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