Behind the Q-Poll

Most pollsters will tell you, how you ask the question can impact the answer. What they don’t always mention is the result can often significantly alter the public narrative on an issue.

Last week’s Quinnipiac University poll is a perfect example. Their press release claimed “New York poll found voters back $15 minimum wage,” and in their first poll question, “Would you support or oppose raising the state’s minimum wage to $15.00 an hour over the next several years?” participants agreed, 62 to 35%. The headline in a number of media outlets was, Q poll shows support for Governor’s $15 minimum wage proposal.

But that poll had a second minimum wage question, and the response has been largely ignored by the media.

It asked: Which of four options “…comes closest to your point of view regarding raising the state’s minimum wage,”?

  • No increase
  • an increase but less than $15
  • an increase to $15
  • or an increase above $15

For this question, 49% preferred something less than $15, slightly more than the 48% who preferred $15 or higher. Interestingly, for upstate respondents, 61% supported an increase under $15, including 13% who chose no increase. When given a range of choices, the Q-poll found that New Yorkers in fact are split on the $15 per hour proposal.

Then there is this opinion piece in yesterday’s NY Post. Michael Saltsman, from the Employment Policy Institute, used Google’s Consumer Survey tool to survey 504 New Yorkers. He first asked about a $15 per hour minimum wage, and – similar to Quinnipiac – found a support rate of 57%. But when they asked whether New Yorker’s would support that policy if it would cause some less-skilled employees to lose their jobs, the results flipped to 57% in opposition. When asked how they’d feel about a $15 minimum wage if it would cause some small businesses to close, 67% opposed it.

No doubt, there will be numerous studies on the economic impact of a $15 minimum wage. Three west coast cities– Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles – have adopted laws moving toward that figure, and some data are already showing job loss. Stay tuned.