Gun-Owning TPM Readers

Recently I was talking to an activist in the gun control movement. The issue that most interested me is that while the number of guns in circulation has gone up dramatically in the United States, the number of people who own firearms has been declining steadily for forty years. In other words, a smaller number of people are owning more and more guns.

According to the NORC General Social Survey, 32% of Americans live in a household with at least one firearm. But when you press down to the number of individuals who personally own a firearm, that is only 22% of the population.

So I was interested, how does this compare to TPM’s audience? As you know we have a survey and research service which we use to poll both our readers and (with offsite polling and various demographic weighting) center-left influencers generally.

So where’d the number come out? To my great surprise, it was virtually identical to the population at large. In this case, we did not weight the data or sample off-site. So this is purely from the panel made up of our readers. 21% of our readers said they currently own a firearm. In other words, almost indistinguishable form NORC’s number as of last year for the population at large (22%).

Here’s the exact data, with a sample size of 5640 respondents.

“Do you currently or have you ever owned a firearm?”

Never – 37.5%

I do not and would never own a firearm – 20.9%

I currently own a firearm – 21%

I used to own one but I don’t anymore – 10.7%

Now we know a lot about the age, affluence, gender and various other factors of our readers. In general, men and white people own more guns than women and non-whites. We’ve never tracked the racial composition of our audience but I suspect it’s at least a bit whiter than the population at large. We do track gender and it is definitely a disproportionately male audience.

So gender and race may play some role. But I would assume that political and cultural orientation would greatly overwhelm those demographic factors. But apparently not. Our readers are almost indistinguishable from the population at large in terms of gun ownership.