Are there any homosexuals in your home?

Telephone surveys are a valuable method of obtaining data. Sometimes they are the only means by which data on a particular topic can be gathered. But there are times when they can give you very bad data.

Suppose you did a phone survey asking if there were any fugitives from justice living at your house. My guess is the data obtained would differ considerably from the actual value.

Suppose you did a phone survey asking if you had expensive jewelry. Probably to a lesser extent but still my guess is the answers given will not be accurate.

Furthermore my hypothesis is the differences from reality to the two questions above would be be fairly constant over time. If you asked about fugitives living at your home my guess is that you might get 1 out of 100 to admit a fugitive was living there when there was one and that would not change much from 25 years ago to today.

Now suppose you did a survey on how many homosexuals live in your home. If you did the survey in the 1950s my guess is the report of a “none” when in fact there was one or more would be very high. But if the survey were done today the false reporting would be much lower.

Surveys on gun ownership suffer from similar problems. There is a threat of oppressive regulation and confiscation in some jurisdictions and there is the threat of theft by non government actors as well. Gun owners have a vested interest in not giving accurate data to some random person calling up on the phone.

Hence, I am skeptical of the latest survey on gun ownership. The huge increase in gun sales during late 2008 and 2009 was do to fear of heavy restriction. This climate of fear would have been motivation to falsely report to survey takers.

Note that this is not a VPC survey but just a VPC interpretation of a survey. Had it been a VPC survey additional motivation for error introduction could have been present as well. The VPC conclusions are almost for certainly flawed. If they were correct then Brady Campaign and VPC “membership” would be up and the NRA membership would be down. But this is not the case. I don’t think we can determine what the true gun ownership numbers are but I’m nearly certain it is much higher than that reported in the survey.

As Sebastian said to the Brady Campaign, “Keep telling yourselves that.

10 thoughts on “Are there any homosexuals in your home?

  1. There are also the people who claim not to be gun owners when in truth they are.

    Before I received firearms from my father, my wife would have claimed not to own firearms — even though there was a pistol in the house.

    It was a gift from a friend of her, yet she didn’t think of herself as a gun owner.

    In 2008, 36% of the households reported to have a firearm yet in 2010 only 32.3%

    I’m having a little trouble believing that 11 percent of those 2008 households sold or gave away their firearms.

  2. That particular survey isn’t a telephone survey. It’s done via face to face interviews.

  3. So what? Some of us would still probably lie. In IL most gun owners try to keep a very low profile most of the time.

  4. @ubu52, Sorry about the incorrect assumption of the survey type. But I can’t see that changes much. If anything I would expect that would make those sort of errors more likely instead of less likely.

  5. Hmm: gun manufacturers producing at top capacity for 3 years. Either gun trafficking to Mexico is a lot worse than the ATF has let on, or those guns are still in the US somewhere.

  6. This is great news for the VPC and Brady bunch! Time to take a much deserved break. Given the reported gun ownership trends, gun ownership in the US is on track to disappear entirely within the next few decades. Mission accomplished! Time to move on to other endeavors.

  7. That’s the funny thing about statistics: there are just some biases you can’t account for. I can’t remember the name of this bias (this may be “response bias”–there’s all sorts of names for “biases”, ranging from poor randomization to non-response to whatever), but humans can be especially weaselly when it comes to surveys–especially when they involve “patriotic duty” or “shame” or “is this person really a surveyor, or is he a thief casing the joint?”. Thus, when you ask questions about sex (“duty” and “shame”), gun ownership(“thief?” and some “shame”), jewelry and assets (“thief?”), potentially criminal activity which may even include self defense (“shame” and “fear of getting caught”), or even whether or not you are going to vote (“duty” and “shame”) you aren’t likely to get a truthful answer.

    Now, if you’re preparing a survey, you can try to write several weasel questions to get closer to the truth–say, ask “Did you vote in the last election?”, rather than just “Are you going to vote this election?”–but even that can be a hit-or-miss proposition.

  8. This reminds me of two things. First when I was in high school they used to give us anonymous tests asking what drugs we were taking and how often we had sex etc. My friends and I put down a lists of drugs that started with pot and ended with Angel Dust, Heroin , speed balls. We also all said we were having sex at a rate that even we thought was silly ( I think I put down twice a day, reality was never that year. Not for lack of begging I must say in my defense.). Oh yes I also said I had never once used a condom.

    Whenever I hear one of those “ABC news special report America’s teen drug and sex problem”. I just laugh.

    As far as guns go, my gay friends husband is a cop he straight up told me never to tell anyone you had a gun in your home “because its like saying I have cash hidden in my bedroom to the world”. Also a “lifetime NRA member” friend of mine, went so far as not to put any NRA second Amendment bumper stickers on his car, he was actually very political so this surprised me. He knew guys who had their guns stolen out of their cars or worse one actually was followed home, and then the next day while he was at work, thieves stole his collection of beautiful rifles and some handguns (old).

    So would I tell anyone on the phone or if they came to my door if I owned any guns, hell no!

  9. Another ridiculous “study”to try to support the bias of the authors.
    If NICS checks indicate record numbers of sales of guns for the past three years,
    where are they?

    One wonders if the interviews were conducted in carefully selected jurisdictions
    where firearms ownership is heavily regulated, expecting lower reported numbers.

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