Moving with the times, why we need to be aware of public opinion

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Working in marketing I often get interesting, if not strange, challenges laid before me. One such recent challenge was a project commissioned by a local Church that wanted to understand why they were seeing more funerals than Christenings, more deaths than marriages, in essence they were losing members at an alarming rate, the average age of the Church was more akin to the national speed limit and they were beginning to foresee their own demise.

It didn't take a genius, or in honesty, even me to tell them why - they were out of tune with the majority of the community they represented.

I read an article in our local paper last night in which Alice Barnard, the new CEO of the Countryside Alliance, was bemoaning the lack of young people coming into shooting. It was a realistic appraisal of where we are and outlined why shooting was a 'closed sport' to many young people, of course things will only get worse in the government raises the lower age level for gun ownership and stiffens access to airguns.

I like the Countryside Alliance in preference to the other main shooting organisations (Excluding those organisations that represent a single topic - the BDS for instance), not that they get everything right, far from it. What they are however is realistic in understanding public opinion and how our sport is seen by the wider demographic.

WE will always see shooting as right, just as the animal rights movement and anti gun lobby will always see shooting as wrong - WE don't think we are right WE know it, this applies equally both to us and them.

Some time ago the American Democrat party did a study of voting patterns and realised that people that consistently voted were polarised to either the left or right of the political spectrum (Just as politics were here in the sixties through to the eighties). They realised that to win an argument they needed to win the hearts and minds of the middle ground - just as Blair and Cameron have done here in the UK. Of course there is an inherent danger here as people in the middle ground have no strong views and are liable to 'flip flop' their opinions to who ever is shouting loudest at the time.

We will never win the shooting battle by meekly giving ground, because we can never sate the anti shooting argument. For them its not about numbers shot, animal welfare or even how good we are in conserving habitat - one killed animal, even if done out of species management, predator control or humane destruction, is simply not acceptable.

The lead battle, raised laying cages, access to public/private land, compulsory firearms training are all sub plots and side issues that we allow ourselves to get embroiled in whilst the bigger battle is fought for the middle ground.

And let's face it, those people who occupy this ground are pretty uninterested in whether you or I shoot this coming week. They've not even got an idea of where their food comes from, but from the nightly news they perceive guns as bad things used to kill people like them and surely that nice Kate Humble, RSPB and RSPCA can't be wrong - can they?

Ultimately if we don't start to ignore the sub plots and generate more positive spin for shooting, gain young shooters and raise public perception then everything else will just be side issues - shooting will be lost. Its time for us all to get off of our backsides and help change the narrative.
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  1. wildgoose1uk's Avatar
    Totally agree with you. The lead battle etc needs to be fought but the critical battle is for the hearts and minds of the general public. Something that is less likely to happen when browsing through town centres in camo. There is nothing wrong with camo but it is about the public perception of the people who were such clothing unless they are in the services.
  2. Tom270's Avatar
    This is so right. The NSPCC ad a few years ago demonstrated an alarming perception. There are some really talented writers on here I wonder if some of us could get something positive into each of our local papers. I might have ago its 60p for house adverts and court reports they could do with some country content. Tom
  3. The Singing Stalker's Avatar
    Well written post.