Tuesday Edition

The NRA's still struggling. Plus: What your purchases say about your politics.

1. Checking In on Guns

If you’re a fan of guns in America, there’s reason for celebration and concern. (Open Secrets)

National Rifle Association: One of the most influential gun rights advocacy groups in the country continues to spiral amid claims of mismanagement and financial struggles.

  • The NRA spent just $540,000 on federal lobbying in Q1 2024, the lowest since 2009, per a new Open Secrets analysis.

  • The group’s revenue dropped 40% between the years 2018 and 2022 (from $352.6 million to $211.3 million).

  • Over the same time period, the scandal-plagued group has nearly doubled its spending on legal expenses.

Gun ownership: Although sales have since fallen back down to earth, there was a big spike in gun ownership during the pandemic (which coincided with a nationwide spike in violence).

  • In 2020, new gun ownership hit a record 21 million, but dropped to 16.4 million by 2022.

  • 1 in 5 American households bought a gun from March 2020 to March 2022, raising the percentage of adults living in a household with a gun to 46%.

  • 5% of adults in America purchased a gun for the first time during this period.

  • FBI data shows gun sales have dropped for three years straight.

Gun violence: Gun homicides fell by 7.7% from 2022 to 2023, marking the biggest drop since 2014, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

  • On the other hand, deaths from gun violence remain higher than before the pandemic.

  • Total gun violence deaths in 2019 (excluding suicide): 15,551

  • Total gun violence deaths in 2023 (excluding suicide): 19,066

Views on guns: For roughly a decade, the majority of Americans have supported tougher gun laws, per Gallup.

  • 44% of U.S. adults live in a household with a gun.

  • 64% believe guns make homes safer, while 32% think they make homes more dangerous.

  • Only 27% of Americans support a handgun ban, down from 60% in 1959.

2. Making Sense of Biden’s Israel Policy

As Israel intensifies its campaign in Rafah, a key Hamas stronghold, the Biden administration is trying to walk a foreign policy tightrope. (AP)

President Biden in early May: “I made it clear that if [Israel goes] into Rafah — they haven’t gone in Rafah yet — if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities, that deal with that problem.”

While the Israeli military last week confirmed it is operating in central Rafah, Biden officials say Israel has yet to cross the president’s red line.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., last week: “[Biden] was worried about people being displaced; that has already happened, a million people have already been displaced. He was worried about tanks going into the city; that has already happened. He was worried about strikes on dense areas; that had already happened. So I really don’t know what the red line is anymore …”

Biden has ramped up ceasefire calls to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but for the most part hasn’t followed through on a threat to withhold weapons shipments.

  • In early May, the Pentagon said it had paused a shipment of “high-payload munitions” in response to Israel’s Rafah offensive.

  • But as National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby and U.S. ambassador to Israel Jacob Lew have made clear, aside from the one shipment, American weapons continue to flow to Israel.

AP reporter Ellen Knickmeyer: “Critics charge that Biden, who declared early last month that he would not supply offensive weapons if Israel launched an all-out assault on Rafah, has come up against a domestic red line of his own and decided not to cross it: challenging ally Israel, which has support from Republicans and many American voters, in an election year.”

Bubba’s Two Cents

Biden is trying to thread the needle between appeasing a small but influential pro-Palestine segment of his base, and not ticking off the broader American electorate, which is generally supportive of Israel. This approach sounds okay in theory, but in practice it’s leaving both sides unhappy, and it’s coming across as indecisive leadership.

3. This Is Your Brain on Cable News

According to a common adage, “politics is downstream of culture,” but recent polling suggests it’s downstream of media first and foremost. (Ipsos)

An Ipsos poll released last month shows how the media you consume can skew your outlook on the most important issue facing America.

  • Right-wing media watchers prioritize immigration.

  • Mainstream media viewers focus on threats to democracy.

  • The average American is most concerned about inflation.

Chart: Ipsos

Where people are getting their news: About one-third of Americans primarily get news from mainstream sources like network news or national newspapers.

  • 30% get their news from social media or digital news.

  • 10% get their news from Fox News or conservative media.

  • 6% get it from CNN or MSNBC.

Cable news watchers tend to be more partisan: CNN and MSNBC viewers are overwhelmingly pro-Biden, while Fox News and conservative media viewers are overwhelmingly pro-Trump, more so than general Democrats or Republicans.

A 2022 study paid loyal Fox News viewers to watch CNN for a month and found the following shifts in participants’ opinions:

  • Increased agreement that Fox News conceals Donald Trump's mistakes.

  • Greater belief that Trump’s campaign was not taking sufficient COVID-19 precautions.

  • Reduced belief that Democrats were trying to steal the election with mail-in ballots.

  • More support for voting by mail.

  • Less belief that President Biden would lead to more police being shot by Black Lives Matter activists.

  • Lowered positive evaluations of Trump and other Republican politicians.

Political scientist David Broockman on partisan media like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News: “Partisan media aren’t just putting a thumb on the scale for their side. They’re also hiding information that voters need to hold politicians accountable. That’s not just good for their side and bad for the other side—it’s bad for democracy, and for all of us.”

Bubba’s Two Cents

If you believe that politics is downstream of media (like I do), then the state of today’s media explains an awful lot about the state of today’s politics. Trust in media has plummeted, as has confidence in lawmakers and the political system. Much of the media is full of lowest common denominator drama, so is our Congress.

4. You Are What You Buy

New Ipsos polling shows that what people buy is linked to their political views, highlighting how politics and consumer behavior are increasingly intertwined. (Ipsos)

Chart: Ipsos

Biden consumers:

  • 48% of registered voters who own a hybrid or electric vehicle support President Biden, while 25% support Donald Trump.

  • 32% of voters who got coffee from a specialty shop favor Biden, while 28% favor Trump.

  • 33% of voters who used a delivery app for food favor Biden, compared to 28% for Trump.

Trump consumers:

  • 51% of motorcycle or ATV owners are pro-Trump, vs. just 17% who prefer Biden.

  • Truck and boat owners are much more likely to support Trump.

  • 34% of voters who ate fast food in the past week favor Trump, while 29% favor Biden.

  • 35% of crypto owners support Trump, while 30% back Biden.

A growing share of Americans on both sides of the aisle are using their wallets to express their politics.

  • The environmental, social and governance investing trend provided a way for companies to signal their commitment to progressive causes like climate change and racial justice.

  • Black Rifle Coffee and similar companies give conservative consumers a way to buy from businesses that uphold patriotic values.

  • In recent years, boycotts have come from both the left (Chick-fil-A) and right (Bud Light, Disney).

  • Political merchandise is among the best-selling products in some Amazon categories.

Bubba’s Two Cents

This is all a sign of how rising political polarization has led Americans to silo ourselves off from each other in more and more ways. Liberals drink one type of coffee, while conservatives drink another. Republicans watch Fox News, while Democrats watch MSNBC. Once you’ve given up on coexisting, the only option left is to build a wall.

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