ABC Poll Finds Twice as Many Blame Culture Over Guns, But 'World News' Spikes It

Update (Ken Shepherd | April 25, 13:25 EDT): On Tuesday, Fox News's Brit Hume touched on this in the "Political Grapevine" segment.

ABC News polling chief Gary Langer, in a posting buried on ABCNews.com, revealed that a poll taken Sunday discovered that when “asked the primary cause of gun violence, far more Americans blamed the effects of popular culture (40 percent) or the way parents raise their children (35 percent) than the availability of guns (18 percent).” ABC's World News on Monday devoted nearly two minutes to results of ABC's survey, but didn't get to that finding which shows the public does not share the media assumption that gun availability is to blame for the murders at Virginia Tech.


Although George Stephanopoulos did point out how “a strong majority of Americans, 52 to 29, prefer enforcing existing laws to passing new laws,” anchor Charles Gibson led with a widely-held view, how “a new ABC News poll finds 83 percent of Americans say states should do more to report mentally ill people to the federal gun sales registry.” He went how to highlight that “61 percent of the people in this country say they favor stronger gun control laws, although people are split right down the middle as to whether stricter gun control laws would actually curb any kind of violence, 49 percent saying yes, 50 percent saying no.”

The full text of the question, as listed in the PDF of the poll results, a PDF linked at the end of Langer's summary report:
“7. Which of the following do you think is the primary cause of gun violence in America – (the availability of guns), (the way parents raise their children), or (the influence of popular culture such as movies, television, and the Internet)?”
You have to do some sleuthing, however, to even learn about how twice as many blame popular culture as gun availability and, when you add in poor parenting, four times as many blame something other than access to guns. To get to Langer's posting, headlined “Mental Health Measures Broadly Backed, but Culture Gets More Blame Than Guns,” which as of 8pm EDT was not on the ABCNews.com home page or the World News page, you must click on “Politics” on the sidebar and then scroll to the very bottom of the lengthy page to see the headline in the “Polling” box. The lead headline at the top of ABCNews.com? What ABC considers a controversy: “Limbaugh Says Virginia Tech Killer 'Had to Be a Liberal.'” That links to a blog posting by Jake Tapper.

ABC has been pushing for more gun control, well beyond toughening up standards on sharing mental health information, since hours after the Virginia Tech shooting. Previous NewsBusters postings:
April 23: “Despite Rise in Gun Crime in Britain, ABC News Trumpets UK's Handgun Ban”

April 20: “Disappointment at ABC News: 'Politicians and Gun Control: Why Aren’t They Outraged?'”

April 17: “Nets Blame Virginia's 'Lax' Gun Laws, Gibson and Couric Press Bush on Gun Control.”

April 16: “ABCNews.com Jumps to Push Gun Control; On TV Tapper Notes Greater Access Option.” That item recounted how, just hours after the shooting, ABCNews.com posted this leading poll question: “Do you think this incident is a reason to pass stricter gun control legislation?”
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the close-captioning against the video for the April 23 World News story. Anchor Charles Gibson reported:
"Well, the Virginia Tech shooting stunned the nation and seemed to shift public opinion on some topics. A new ABC News poll finds 83 percent of Americans say states should do more to report mentally ill people to the federal gun sales registry, something that might have prevented Seung-Hui Cho from purchasing a weapon. The poll was taken after the Virginia Tech killings, and it looked at guns and mental health in general. ABC's chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos joins me now. George, so people want more information given to the states on people who are mentally ill and perhaps shouldn't have guns. Will something happen because of this?"

George Stephanopoulos: "Very likely, Charlie. Even the National Rifle Association has supported measures like this in the past. And they're currently negotiating with members of Congress for a new law that would do this. The White House has no objection. So I would guess that something like this would pass, but no new laws beyond this."

Gibson: "That would probably be it because there's some other interesting numbers in the poll that I want to quote: 61 percent of the people in this country say they favor stronger gun control laws, although people are split right down the middle as to whether stricter gun control laws would actually curb any kind of violence, 49 percent saying yes, 50 percent saying no. Interesting thing, those numbers haven't changed really at all as a result of what happened in Virginia Tech."

Stephanopoulos: "Not at all, Charlie. And a strong majority of Americans, 52 to 29, prefer enforcing existing laws to passing new laws. The other thing going on here, those who are against new gun laws care a lot about it a lot more than people who are for new gun laws. And it's become conventional wisdom among Democrats that this gun issue cost them control of Congress in 1994, cost them the White House in 2000 and 2004. The majority in Congress right now has no appetite to make this a top priority."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center