It does seem that sometimes pollsters and their sponsors get a little too cozy. Glenn Kessler’s Washington Post article, “A misleading ‘Obamacare’ poll, courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce and Harris Interactive” provides an illuminating case in point:
…The polling company, Harris Interactive, and the sponsor, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, presented the data in a highly misleading way — and then made false claims about the type of poll that had been conducted.
Perhaps that is not surprising, given that the Chamber has been a fierce opponent of the health-care law, a.k.a. Obamacare. One must always be skeptical of polls peddled by partisan organizations. Perhaps it should be no surprise that this poll was released just as the GOP-led House of Representatives scheduled a vote to repeal the law.
Given the way the data was presented, Republican lawmakers thought they had been handed a gift — and ended up with egg on their faces.
Looking at the language in the report, highlighted above, is it any wonder that House Speaker John A. Boehner would tweet: “Study: ‘74% of small businesses will fire workers, cut hours under #Obamacare.'”
Or that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) would write: “75% of small businesses now say they are going to be forced to either fire workers or cut their hours.”
On closer scrutiny, however, Kessler notes,
…As for the factoid eagerly repeated by Republican foes of Obamacare, there is a hint in the Chamber news release (but not in the more detailed Harris poll document) that a crucial piece of information is missing: “Among small businesses that will be impacted by the employer mandate, one-half of small businesses say that they will either cut hours to reduce full time employees OR replace full time employees with part-timers to avoid the mandate. 24% say they will reduce hiring to stay under 50 employees.”
“Among the small businesses that will be impacted by the employer mandate” suggests that these figures come from a subsample of the poll.
A Chamber spokeswoman, who declined to be identified, acknowledged that only 17 percent of the businesses surveyed said they would be affected by the employer mandate. Put another way, the poll found that 83 percent of small businesses surveyed said they would not be affected by an employer mandate that the Chamber of Commerce has said is a burden on small businesses.
Instead, Harris and the Chamber highlighted the answers of only those affected by the employer mandate. Moreover, they did not disclose that respondents could select as many options as they wanted, meaning the numbers could not be added up, because some executives may have selected more than one answer.
To find out the real values, a two-step process is necessary. First, the numbers have to be significantly reduced to account for the fact that only 17 percent of the sample (222 businesses) answered the question. Then you have to account for the possibility of multiple answers.
We will spare you the calculations, but here’s the bottom line: just 4.5 to 8.5 percent of small business executives surveyed said they will reduce hours or full-time staff in response to the employer mandate. That certainly has a different ring than “74 percent.”
A certain amount of skepticism is appropriate when analyzing the results and methods of any opinion poll. When the Chamber of Commerce is the sponsor, however, better make that a double-dose.
For now, it’s fair to say that, while many small businesses would welcome some adjustments to Obamacare, few, if any, are laying off workers or reducing work hours of their employees because of it.