Policy Beliefs and Policy Preferences: The Case of Guns
By Bryan Caplan
Donald Wittman says that it doesn’t matter if people have systematically biased beliefs about policy. Why not? Because even if you fixed their misconceptions, their policy preferences would remain unchanged.
In an earlier post, I showed that he’s wrong for the minimum wage. Even though 80% want to raise the minimum wage, only 40% would do so “if it resulted in fewer jobs available to low paid workers in this country.”
Now I’ve come across analogous survey results for gun control. In the GSS, 70.6% agree that “There should be more legal restrictions on handguns in our society.” However, only 62.9% of gun control supporters would continue to support gun control if “research proves that more legal restrictions on handguns would increase violent crime.”
I’ve got to admit that I’m surprised that support for gun control is so resilient. (Maybe respondents just refuse to accept the hypothetical?) But even so, if you do the math, you’ll find that if beliefs about the effects of gun control changed, support for gun control would fall from 70.6% to 44%. Looks like Wittman is wrong again.
P.S. What if research proves that gun control reduces violent crime? Then support for gun control rises to 82%.