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Letter to Editor | Disappointed by the Way the Story Framed Minimum Wage Poll

Published on Monday, February 11, 2019 | 9:33 am

Thank you for publishing the article in today’s Pasadena Now about the David Binder Research poll on the minimum wage
However, I was very disappointed by the way the story framed the poll. The use of the words “Supporters…say…” in the headline –“Supporters of Raising Minimum Wage to $15 by 2020 Say 81% of Pasadena Voters Agree” – questions the validity of the poll results by making it appear that they are simply what supporters “say” rather than what the polling firm actually found in its scientific survey of Pasadena voters. Similarly, the use of the word “reportedly” – three times! – in the story appears to question the poll’s validity. This, in turn, could lead your readers to question whether the polling firm used standard polling techniques in conducting the survey.
I have been teaching political science and examining polls for many years and this is not how media outlets report the findings of polls from legitimate polling firms. I have never, for example, seen a media outlet report that the Gallup poll “reportedly” found that X percentage of Americans support same-sex marriage or that X percentage of Americans believe in the death penalty.
David Binder Research is one of the most well-respected polling firms in the country. Indeed, POP commissioned David Binder Research to conduct the poll because of its reputation for accuracy and integrity. You can confirm that by contacting other polling firms and/or political scientists with expertise in polling. I just did a Google search to look for articles about the many polls conducted by David Binder Research on behalf of a wide variety of clients, including the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, political candidates (including Barack Obama and Gavin Newsom), advocacy organizations, and others. I did not find a single article that reported the findings of those polls by using words like “reportedly” or “allegedly” to describe the results of the polls. Here are a few examples, although you can look for yourself and you’ll find the same thing:

  • San Francisco Chronicle: SF safe injection sites expected to be first in nation, open around July 1 – “The Chamber of Commerce’s Dignity Health CityBeat Poll is conducted every year, and for the first time this year included a question about safe injection sites. It asked respondents whether they support or oppose ‘drop-in facilities called safe injection sites where intravenous drug users could use their drugs, off the street, and in a place where medical and social services are available.’ Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they back the idea — 45 percent strongly and 22 percent somewhat. Twenty-seven percent opposed it, and 6 percent didn’t know. The poll found support for the sites regardless of age or homeownership. Progressives, liberals and moderates all backed the idea, though just 42 percent of self-described conservatives did. The poll was conducted in January by David Binder Research and surveyed 500 registered city voters in English and Cantonese. The margin of error is 4.4 percent.”
  • San Jose Mercury News: Two new polls show tight race for second place in campaign for California governor — “An internal poll conducted by David Binder Research for Newsom’s campaign, released exclusively to the Bay Area News Group on Wednesday, found similar numbers: Newsom at 30 percent, Villaraigosa and Chiang at 11 percent, and Cox at 7 percent. Eastin, Allen, and Ose were all tied at 4 percent. It surveyed 800 likely voters around the state.”
  • Philadelphia Business Journal: As health organizations back soda tax, new data shows most locals are against it – “Despite additional pre-K seats and new community schools in neighborhoods across the city, only one section of Philadelphia has more residents in support of, rather than against, the funding mechanism behind those initiatives, according to a new report from the American Beverage Association. Despite additional preK seats and new community schools in neighborhoods across the city, only one section of Philadelphia has more residents in support of, rather than against, the funding mechanism behind those initiatives, according to a new report from the American Beverage Association. The Philadelphia beverage tax (PBT) has led to the opening of a dozen community schools in neighborhoods from the Far Northeast to Wynnefield, from Cedarbrook to Lower Moyamensing. Despite that benefit, the majority of neighbors in West Philly, South Philly, North Philly, the Northeast and the Northwest oppose the tax, which imposes a 1.5 cent per ounce levy at the distributor level, the ABA’s latest research – conducted by David Binder Research – shows.”
  • Charleston Chronicle: ACLU Launches Voter Education Tool for 2018 Midterms with Info on Criminal Justice Platforms of Thousands of Candidates — “The research, conducted by David Binder Research between August 23 and September 8, 2018, found that 78 percent of likely voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports criminal justice reform, including 72 percent of Republicans. It also found that 75 percent of likely voters, including 67 percent of white Republicans, are more likely to support candidates who pledge to reduce and speak out against racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Finally, 71 percent of likely voters want candidates who are committed to ending the war on drugs.”
  • Capitol Weekly: Time to take action on behavioral health – “According to the poll conducted by David Binder Research in San Francisco, 84 percent of likely voters statewide believe that increasing access to treatment for mental illness and addiction can help solve the growing problems of homelessness. And 85 percent said it was personally important to them that candidates for office make it a priority to address the problems of mental health and drug and alcohol addiction.”

You can see that it is standard journalism practice to report the findings of polls conducted by David Binder Research as legitimate, valid, and above suspicion. Typically, media outlets simply use the phrase “David Binder Research found…” or “according to a poll conducted by David Binder Research,” or “a poll conducted by David Binder Research shows,” or something along those lines. None of these stories – nor any other news story I found that reported on a poll conducted by David Binder Research – used words in headlines or the text that raised questions about the validity of any of the surveys.
In light of this, I would much appreciate your revising the headline by eliminating the word “say” and the inference that the poll is simply a reflection of what POP thinks, rather than what David Binder Research found in its poll of Pasadena voters. Likewise, I would appreciate your eliminating the word “reportedly,” used three times in the story.
Feel free to call me if you want to discuss this. I’ll be at home until 10:15 am. Then I have to go over to KPCC to discuss the minimum wage on Larry Mantle’s show.

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