Two national pollsters went into the field over the same period with virtually the same sample size, but derived very different conclusions about a consistent subject matter. Both Gallup (Jan. 17; 1,021 adults) and Rasmussen Reports (Jan. 16-17; 1,000 adults) asked questions about the current state of gun control, but did so from opposite perspectives. Not surprisingly, the resulting answers and underlying premise varied widely.
Gallup asked about Pres. Obama’s new gun control proposals, but did not provide the respondents with any specifics. Their question: “… as you may know, yesterday President Obama proposed a set of new laws designed to reduce gun violence in the United States. From what you know or have read about this, would you want your representative in Congress to vote for or against these new laws?” As a point of clarification, though Gallup refers to the Obama proposals as “laws,” the legislation has not yet been officially introduced nor passed.
The Gallup sampling universe responded 53-41 percent in favor of enacting the Obama proposals.
The Rasmussen study was different in nature. Their surveyors asked a series of seven questions, querying the sampling universe about whether the nation needs additional gun laws or stricter enforcement of the ones we already have. Their results show that 57 percent favor better enforcement versus just 32 percent who say new laws should be adopted.
These two polls clearly illustrate how the questioning format can produce very different results even when testing the same issue. This is why understanding individual polling methodology is so important to drawing accurate conclusions in relation to any particular research subject.