Are ‘junk polls’ giving Erie a bad rep?
Two polls were released this week that gave Erie some unwanted negative exposure and caused a flurry of discussion on area media.
It turns out that some of the angst was derived from bad analysis by a national media poll watcher. The other poll cited looks to be a garbage statistic.
Here’s the back story: on Monday, the Gallup organization released some new data from its ongoing Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, comparing living in the city vs. the country. ABC News Director of Polling Gary Langer reported on the distinction and mixed into his report the 2009 findings of Gallup’s daily poll which has
the goal of creating an official statistic for the daily state of health and well-being in the United States…individuals and communities receive an overall wellbeing composite score and a score in each of six sub-indices including life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, healthy behavior, work environment and basic access.
The problem came in Langer’s fifth paragraph, where he listed the top five and bottom five cities in the overall index. He got the top five correct, but listed #168 to #172 as the bottom five, which included Erie at #170. Of course, if you are ranking 185 cities like the Gallup poll does, #170 is close but not really at the bottom. The actual bottom five cities in wellbeing are actually:
- #181 – Flint, MI
- #182 – Charleston, WV
- #183 – Modesto, CA
- #184 – Johnstown, PA
- #185 – Lake Havasu City-Kingman, AZ
The problem is that the Langer story was quoted by WTOP.com, then by ErieBlogs.com (who got the ranking right) and by GlobalErie.com, causing lots of hand-wringing locally. Now being ranked #170 is nothing to be proud of, and we need to be a more healthy community, but there’s no way that Erie, PA should be at the bottom for things like access and emotional health.
The Gallup poll asks 46 questions of its participants each day about things like feelings, and I just have to wonder if the typical surly take on life in our community that some Erieites have took a toll on the poll. Sometimes when you talk to someone from Erie who hasn’t lived anywhere else, you experience their extreme lack of perspective; a typical “grass is always greener somewhere else” mentality.
Then there was the insurance.com poll, an obvious ploy to increase page views, which listed its Most Dangerous Cities for drivers. You would think, LA, Chicago, or Boston, right? No, its Baltimore, with Erie PA listed at #5!
Baltimore tops the list with 36.5 percent of drivers claiming a prior accident when receiving a car insurance comparison quote from insurance.com. The port city might not surprise many, but there were plenty of stunners in the Top 10, including Erie, Pa., and Des Moines, Iowa.
This is what’s called a “junk poll,” using very flimsy criteria to build a statistic. Considering we live in a town that hosts a top ten auto insurer which bears the city name, perhaps the only Erieites looking for comparative quotes on insurance.com are the one who have too many accidents to buy insurance from ERIE, State Farm or Allstate!!
Meanwhile, our local media give credibility to the junk poll, even generating their own poll to dispute the insurance.com one.
Considering the meager marketing budget our community has to promote itself, we need every break we can get from free media. Suspect polls and poor reporting doesn’t help.