Did Portland Business Journal Alter Its $15 Minimum Wage Poll Results?

Last week, following the news of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage victory the conservative, corporate-friendly online publication, Portland Business Journal (PBJ), began running a poll which asked whether Portland should follow Seattle’s $15 minimum wage lead. Then on the morning of June 10 the poll was altered in a number of ways. The question asked in the poll changed, and is appears that the results of the poll were altered as well. 

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 11.27.16 AMWhen the poll was first published it asked if Portland should follow Seattle’s lead and adopt a $15 minimum wage.

There were two answers to chose from: 1) Yes the current $9.10 minimum wage is too low, and 2) No it will be too big a burden for business. However, on June 10 a new article was written and added to this poll that changed the question being asked. The article explained that they had changed the question of the poll to ask if Oregon, rather than just Portland, should follow Seattle’s lead. Their reasoning is that they suddenly learned about the state’s minimum wage preemption law, and so since Portland can’t raise the minimum wage (which is not entirely true at all), PBJ was changing the question to include the whole state.

The problem with this is that by changing the question of the poll after almost a week of responses, they are skewing the poll. Over 600 people voted in the poll before the question was altered. Those people thought they were voting in a poll about Portland specifically, not about Oregon in general. To alter the question in the middle of a poll like that, and then encourage people  to continue voting gives us a poll with results that are at best extremely questionable. This is an extremely unethical surprise from a publication trying to pass itself off as professional journalism.

What is even worse and possibly more unethical is that it appears the results of the poll itself were changed at the same time that the question was altered. By June 8 with close to 600 votes, the yes votes led the poll 54-44% with 2% voting “other.” By the next day, June 9, the vote total had reached over 600, and the no’s had gained a bit ground,  but yes still led by 8%. We don’t have screenshots to prove that. But we don’t need them to show that the poll was altered. We do have a screen shot from June 7, when there 533 votes and the yes votes were leading 52-48%, and we have a screen shot from the morning of June 10 when the poll question and results were altered. These two screen shots are more than enough to show without doubt that the results were in some way changed, and that the new result of the 80% of respondents being against raising the minimum wage to $15 is not even mathematically possible.

bizjournpollIn this first screen shot right above, taken on June 7, you can see that the yes votes were leading the poll by 52-48%. In the next screen shot shown below, you see a close up of the vote total, which stood at 533 votes.

bizjournpollcloseup

 

Next we’ll show you the screen shot from the morning of June 10. You can see that there are now 626 votes, and the no votes are way in the lead at 83-14%. How is it possible that with less than 100 votes added between the times of the two screen shots, that the results could shift so dramatically? With just a bit of simple math we’ll see that it is actually impossible.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 1.58.51 PM

 

In the first screen shot the no’s have 48% of 533 votes, which is a total of 255.48 votes (.48 x 533 = 255.48). So we’ll be nice and round up, and say that there were 256 no votes.

In the second screen shot on June 10, with 93 total votes having been added, the no’s are shown to have 83% of 626 total votes. That means that apparently “no” had a total of 520 votes. (.83 x 626 = 519.58 rounded up to 520). The no answer had 256 votes. Then with only 93 total votes had been added to the poll, the no votes somehow magically gained 264 votes (520 no votes in screen shot 2 minus 256 no votes in screen shot 1 = 264 new no votes). That means that somehow the no votes gained almost 3 times more votes than the number of total new votes that had actually been cast. For every vote shown to be cast in the poll, the no answer somehow magically gained three votes. It isn’t possible.

The Portland Business Journal needs to explain this discrepancy, and it needs to provide evidence for it’s explanation. Otherwise there are very few conclusions from which to draw about the ethics and journalistic credentials of the publication because as it stands, it very much looks like someone at PBJ altered the results because they didn’t like that the majority of respondents were voting yes for a $15 minimum wage.

Written by Justin Norton-Kertson, 15 Now PDX cofounder and steering committee member.

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