Wednesday, April 6, 2016

When surveys come back and bite you

Lydia DePillis of the Washington Post has an amusing article on what must have been an uncomfortable presentation:
Whenever minimum wage increases are proposed on the state or federal level, business groups tend to fight them tooth and nail. But actual opposition may not be as united as the groups' rhetoric might make it appear, according to internal research conducted by a leading consultant for state chambers of commerce.

The survey of 1,000 business executives across the country was conducted by LuntzGlobal, the firm run by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, and obtained by a liberal watchdog group called the Center for Media and Democracy. (The slide deck is here, and the full questionnaire is here.) Among the most interesting findings: 80 percent of respondents said they supported raising their state's minimum wage, while only eight percent opposed it.

"That’s where it’s undeniable that they support the increase,” LuntzGlobal managing director David Merritt told state chamber executives in a webinar describing the results, noting that it squares with other polling they’ve done. “And this is universal. If you’re fighting against a minimum wage increase, you’re fighting an uphill battle, because most Americans, even most Republicans, are okay with raising the minimum wage.”

Needless to say, Merritt and company did their best to focus on the positive.

Merritt then provided some tips on how to defuse that support, such as suggesting other poverty-reduction methods like the Earned Income Tax Credit. “Where you might find some comfort if you are opposing it in your state is, 'how big of a priority is it against other priorities?'” he said. "Most folks think there are bigger priorities. Creating more jobs rather than raising the minimum wage is a priority that most everyone agrees with. So when you put it up against other issues, you can find other alternatives and other things to focus on. But in isolation, and you ask about the minimum wage, it's definitely a winner.”

Sixty-three percent of respondents said they belong to a chamber of commerce, whether on the local, state, or federal level — suggesting that the groups' public statements might be out of step with their members' beliefs. The materials shed light on how some business trade associations operate, and why they’ve continued to oppose minimum wage increases even as the rest of the public thaws towards them.
That last paragraph raises an interesting point: don't profession organizations have an ethical obligation to represent their members? Instead we have what appears to be a case of the leaderships of the state chambers using their members to provide money for and lend legitimacy to lobbying efforts that go against the beliefs of the majority of the members.

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