Friday, January 3, 2014

Public opinion of minimum wage (Framing the issue)

There were seven polls conducted in 2013 about raising the minimum wage, according to Polling Report.  On average, the results were 68% support raising the minimum wage, 28% oppose raising the minimum wage, and 4% are not sure or refused to answer the question.

But there was one poll, in particular, I wanted to take a closer look at.  The poll was done at the end of February of 2013 by NBC News/Wall Street Journal.  The poll found that 58% of people favor raising the minimum wage, 36% opposed it, and 6% were not sure or refused to answer the question.  Without this poll included, 70% of people were found to support raising the minimum wage, 26% of people were found to oppose raising the minimum wage, and 4% were not sure.  But, let's take a look at how they may have gotten to their numbers.

The Wall Street Journal/NBC News found President Barack Obama a 1% favorite in the 2012 presidential election.  President Barack Obama won the popular vote by 2.8%.  It is possible that the Wall Street Journal/NBC News somewhat favors Republican or Conservative ideals by about a margin of 2%.  That's possible and somewhat seems probable. But the biggest difference between this poll and the others is not a pure ideological difference in the polls, but rather the phrasing of the question.

The question asked by the Wall Street Journal/NBC News was phrased in a way that might be construed as a leading question:

"Thinking about the proposal to raise the minimum wage from seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour to nine dollars an hour; Do you think we should raise the minimum wage because it would raise many families out of poverty and boost the economy by giving low-wage families more money to spend, OR, should NOT raise the minimum wage because it would hurt small businesses and could make it more difficult for low-skill workers to get work as it would be more expensive for businesses to hire?"

The most similar question to this one is ABC News/Washington Post which asked the following question:

"Some people say the minimum wage should be raised to help low-income workers get by. Others say raising the minimum wage will lead some businesses to to cut jobs.  Given these arguments, do you support or oppose raising the minimum wage?"

The question asked by ABC News produced 66% respondents supported raising the minimum wage and 31% opposed raising the minimum wage.  That's a little bit below the average that we found at the beginning but not too far off.  But, in fact if we take the projections from Nate Silver's pollster accuracy and bias from the 2012 presidential election, we see that ABC News had a 2.7% bias to Romney.  So, in fact the phrasing might not even be that big of a difference in their difference from the average.  But it might.  49% of Republicans support raising the minimum wage and 44% oppose, according to a Quinnipiac poll.  Assuming that holds constant with the Romney bias found with ABC News polling, then it is a 1.32% increase for Conservative or Republican ideals.  But we are still looking at a 2% increase in opposing the minimum wage due to phrasing.

I'm not ruling sampling problems while looking at the polls but I think the aggregate of polls makes it more unlikely that there are problems of sampling.  

So, how does phrasing impact the way we think about important issues.  Here is how phrasing may have changed the opinion.

Look at how the question was asked by the Wall Street Journal compared to ABC News.  ABC News is a lot more passive in how the raising of minimum wage could affect people.  By saying "some say" instead of "would".  Additionally, the Wall Street Journal also states unequivocally that small businesses will be hurt. Additionally, they assume that low-wage workers will not be hired because it will be too expensive.

What are the biggest reasons not to raise the minimum wage?  Well, it could hurt small businesses and low wage employees won't be hired because hiring is too expensive.  The Wall Street Journal immediately brought this up in their poll question so people could think about it while they were answering the question.

The framing of the issue is entirely won by the Wall Street Journal and the like in this instance.  But even with much less active verbiage, ABC News found a slight decrease in support.  But it's clear from the poll what issues will be brought up when there is a debate about raising the minimum wage.

Increasingly, we will see more politicians bring up the impact on small businesses.  We will also see politicians bring up the idea that more low-wage workers will lose their jobs.  We found the issue that will be the push back.to raising the minimum wage.

 






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