Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Investor's Business Daily: Shoddy Healthcare "Poll"

Today, Investor's Business Daily released a poll that purports to demonstrate that 2/3 of doctors oppose healthcare reform and that 45% of them would consider closing their medical practice if the reform passes. The poll contradicts many recent surveys that show strong support among doctors for healthcare reform -- including passage of a public plan option.

Why does the IBD poll differ so greatly from other recent polls? The problem lies in the pollster's methodology.

Earlier today, a reader sent me a copy of the poll, but I was too busy to write a response. Fortunately, Nate Silver and Media Matters have taken up the task, which minimizes the amount of time required to dissect this partisan hatchet job.

Here is Silver's analysis:
1. The survey was conducted by mail, which is unusual. [Dissenting Justice: It is also unreliable. With a mail-in survey it is more difficult to prevent multiple responses from one individual or to make sure that only the target sample (doctors) complete the survey.]

2. At least one of the questions is blatantly biased: "Do you believe the government can cover 47 million more people and it will cost less money and the quality of care will be better?" Holy run-on-sentence, Batman. A pollster who asks a question like this one is not intending to be objective.

3. As we learned during the Presidential campaign -- when, among other things, they had John McCain winning the youth vote 74-22 -- the IBD/TIPP polling operation has literally no idea what they're doing. . . .

4. They say, somewhat ambiguously: "Responses are still coming in." This is also highly unorthodox. [Dissenting Justice: It also makes the poll unreliable. No one knows how the full tally will look without a basis for projecting the results.]

5. There is virtually no disclosure about methodology. For example, IBD doesn't bother to define the term "practicing physician". . . .Nor do they explain how their randomization procedure worked, provide the entire question battery, or anything like that.

Media Matters adds some other tidbits about IBD:
Reading Investor's Business Daily editorials can have something of a cathartic effect. After doggedly researching and fact-checking the dubiously nuanced claims of more sophisticated misinformers, it can be sometimes fun to take a (brief) dip into their troubled fantasy land where even the most fevered conspiracy theories can leap from the pages of FreeRepublic and get their brief, shining moment in the sun. Consider that IBD has implausibly claimed that the House health care bill would outlaw private insurance, absurdly claimed that Colombian terrorists had an inside line to President Obama's campaign, and outright racistly claimed that Obama would put the interests of his "tribe" ahead of national interests.

Be careful reading. And as always, consider the source!


Elizabeth said...

Darren, IBD is the same rag that wrote this in July:

People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.

The source matters, as always.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Elizabeth: How precious.

Real Time Analytics