The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is publicizing a set of state-level polls that they claim show that "voters overwhelmingly oppose the creation of a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency," a component of financial reform legislation set to be debated next week in the House of Representatives. The survey polled 500 voters each in Nebraska and Arkansas, and was performed by the polling firm Ayres McHenry & Associates. Previous polls done by Ayres McHenry for the Chamber have been deemed unreliable by the New York Times, and not up to their standards for publication.
A March 18, 2010 article in the Times' Business section says that polls done by Ayres, McHenry & Associates for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce earlier this year on the issue of health care reform legislation were not up to the Times' standards for publication of the results. Here's why:
Instead of randomly selecting their respondents, the Chamber of Commerce sampled from voter lists, a practice the New York Times and many other media pollsters do not endorse because the lists are often outdated and are generally not representative — they do not include unlisted telephone numbers, for example. Moreover, the firm that conducted the surveys, Ayres, McHenry & Associates, identifies itself as a partisan (Republican-leaning) firm.
On its Web site, Ayres McHenry is open about its Republican leanings. It identifies itself as a Republican-affiliated firm. Its founder, Whit Ayres, belongs to the National Association of Republican Campaign Professionals, and the Web site says that Whit Ayres is a member of the Association's Board of Directors.
Media outlets broadcasting information about the Chamber's polls and their conclusions would do well to research Ayres McHenry and its reputation, and inform readers know about the firm's -- and the Chamber's -- recent history of bias and poor poll quality.