Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Beware of Gallup spin

I'm one that believes there can be some validity to polling at certain times and on specific issues. But it pays to keep a vigilant eye on things rather than just swallow all polling numbers whole.

As an example, I was a bit surprised to see this title to a new Gallup poll: Gov't Regulations Top Small Business Owners Problem List.

We all know that the Republican's answer to unemployment is to basically get rid of all government regulations. But we also know from sources as diverse as the Economic Policy Institute and the National Federation of Independent Businesses that government regulations are not the problem - its all about lack of demand.

So how does Gallup come up with that kind of result from small businesses? I took a look at the data. First of all the headline highlighted an open-ended question "What do you think is the most important problem facing small business owners like you today?" How they grouped the answers was interesting. "Complying with government regulations" got a whopping 22%. But right behind it were "Consumer confidence" at 15% and "Lack of consumer demand" at 12%. Down the list a ways was "Lack of jobs" (which leads to lack of demand) at 4%. If they'd combined all of those it would come in at 31% outpacing regulations.

But it gets even more interesting. Buried in the article is a much more direct question about the contributors to unemployment: "Thinking ahead to 2012, what would be a primary motivation or reason for hiring any new employees?" The number one answer weighing in at 27% is "When revenues or sales have increased."

Its interesting to note that question didn't lead to a headline for Gallup. Could it be that the poll itself was looking for the headline they found? And could that be related to the fact that the poll is listed as coming from the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index? Perhaps a too big to fail small business (cough-cough) like Wells Fargo has an agenda here.

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