Vilification of NRA going about as well as you'd expect

Clearly it’s been a pretty bad month for the NRA. I heard it myself from irrefutable sources at The Hill.

NRA stumbles in fight with Obama over gun-control proposals

Television commentator Joe Scarborough, a former GOP member of the House, hammered the group’s leaders for creating a “fringe organization.”

“Their children have targets on their backs and the NRA is putting something out like [this]? What’s wrong with these people?” Scarborough said Wednesday on his “Morning Joe” program on MSNBC.

“They need new leadership is what they need. Their leadership has dragged them over the cliff, they are now a fringe organization,” added Scarborough, who routinely mentions he maintained an A-rating from the NRA through his tenure in the House. “What the NRA once was, it no longer is. This extremism is so frightening, and just over, over, over the line.”

Well, that certainly is bad news. Unless, of course, you listen to right wing nutjob, fringe conservative sites like… The Washington Post.

But, there’s also plenty of evidence to suggest that the NRA is regarded entirely differently in the country at large. Polling conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal this week showed 41 percent of people had a favorable opinion of the NRA, while 34 percent viewed it unfavorably, a margin largely unchanged from a similar survey conducted in January 2011.

And a look at the longer-term trend line on views of the NRA by Gallup suggests a striking consistency in the overall impression Americans have of the gun rights group.

Here’s the graphic attached with the Gallup polling.

Gallup NRA poll

It’s worth pointing out that with 54%, at least from the running Gallup survey, the NRA is still currently more popular than President Obama. (For the record, I originally typed “more popular than Congress,” but given they’re currently hanging on to only a slim popularity margin over urinary tract infections, it seemed a bit futile.) But sadly, that doesn’t fit with the narrative that far too many in the media are trying to project. In a way, it’s a rather classic line of attack. Going out and directly insulting the 49% of the nation who are gun owners – as well as whatever percentage don’t own guns but support gun owners’ rights – it’s a far better strategy to attack their most influential and effective representative body.

These attacks have been in a repeating pattern which is too consistent to be coincidence and was probably predictable. The NRA is described as a “fringe” organization. Polls are cited which intend to make their positions seem extreme. Of course, the phrasing of many of the poll questions leaves little to the imagination. If you ask people if they are “in favor of ex-felons being able to stroll into gun shows and buy hundreds of military style assault weapons with no background check” you’ll get some pretty spectacular results. However, Gallup stuck with something a little more basic.

What is your overall opinion of the National Rifle Association, also known as the NRA? Favorable – Unfavorable.

When you phrase it like that the picture becomes a bit clearer. This ties back into the previous point about how opponents are choosing to attack the organization. The other common accusation making the rounds on Scarborough’s show and others is that “the NRA doesn’t represent American gun owners. They work for gun manufacturers who make millions of dollars selling these weapons.” It’s a fairly clever bit of marketing, since it ties in that whole resentment of the 1% thing with yet another wedge to drive between the members and the organization. Fortunately – at least for now – it doesn’t seem to be sinking in.