Guns in the Ballot Box
Haider-Markel, D. P.
Publication: American Politics Quarterly
Topics: Legislation and Policy Public Opinion State
Keywords: Ballot initiative campaigns groups guns information opinion
Bibliographic information +
The authors examine the extent to which a change in the information environment affected opinion of a gun safety ballot initiative in the state of Washington in 1997. They find that the heavily sponsored information passed by gun control opponents to potential voters during the last month of campaign prior to a ballot initiative requiring handgun trigger locks and the licensing of handgun owners in Washington was instrumental in defeating the gun safety initiative. The pro-gun lobbies outspent their opponents by a factor of three in the final month of the campaign, allocating more than $2 million to paid media in the final 2 weeks, resulting in a significant drop in support for the initiative during the final weeks of the campaign. According to the authors, the findings suggest a number of theoretical and practical points: that interest group involvement in campaigns can be consequential, that the content which prevails in the information environment becomes accessible to those most aware of it, and that campaigns indeed matter.