Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Polling poses problems for reporters

A summit of manufacturing officials organized by the North Carolina Chamber (formerly NCCBI) met in Greensboro this week. As part of the summit the NC Chamber released a poll of about 300 North Carolina manufacturers.

Here is how the News and Observer described the results

“45 percent said the N.C. economy was not on the right track; 43 percent said it was. 48 percent said the cost of doing business in the state was the same as elsewhere; 14 percent said it was worse and 25 percent said it was better. Asked whether they would consider leaving the state, 77 percent said no.”

Here is how the Winston-Salem Journal described the same findings

“About 45 percent of the 300-plus poll participants said that the state's economy is on the wrong track, 43 percent said that it was on the right track…. About 67 percent of the poll participants said that state and local taxes on businesses are too high, and 53 percent said that high taxes are a direct deterrent to growth.”

Without seeing the entire poll it’s hard to know whether the results were positive or negative for the state’s economy. From what was reported it seems pretty mixed. But the WSJ coverage paints a far dimmer picture than the N&O’s article.

I don't fault the WSJ for their coverage of the poll; the entire article is fair to both “sides.” But this example highlights a problem that limited newspaper or TV coverage has with polling. There are too many questions in a poll to write about all the findings. But often times you need to see the complete results before you can grasp the real truth behind the numbers.

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