I know what you’re thinking: I can’t believe it!
You’d be right.
The right-wing echo chamber amplified a seriously flawed poll conducted by the fringe Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. While most mainstream physicians’ groups, like the American Medical Association, backed the Affordable Care Act, the AAPS has taken a variety of extreme stances. They’ve advised doctors not to accept Medicare payments, argued that abortion causes breast cancer, and pushed conspiracy theories related to the death of Vince Foster. They were the source of the bogus claim that immigrants were causing a leprosy epidemic, one happily parroted by Lou Dobbs.
Certainly, the organization is an extreme one, but it’s still possible that the poll is valid. Or it would be, if it had been conducted using standard polling methodology. It was not.
The survey was conducted by fax and online from April 18 to May 22, 2012. DPMAF obtained the office fax numbers of 36,000 doctors in active clinical practice, and 16,227 faxes were successfully delivered. Doctors were asked to return their completed surveys by fax, or online at a web address included in the faxed copy. Browser rules prevented doctors from filing duplicate surveys, and respondents were asked to provide personal identification for verification. The response rate was 4.3% for a total of 699 completed surveys.
Of course, sending a blast fax and seeing who responds is not the way anyone would do a poll; the purpose of polling is to get a random cross-section of the group being polled. By leaving the responses up to who happens to come across a fax and respond to it, the AAPS survey was certain to reach a non-random sample of physicians. Not to mention that more than a few non-extreme physicians may have chucked the fax the second they saw who it was from.
Even with the odd methodology, the polling didn’t say what the right-wing media claimed it did.
How do current changes in the medical system affect your desire to practice medicine?
Makes me think about quitting – 83%
Unsure/No opinion – 13%
I’m re-energized – 5%
If that question strikes you as nonsensical, you’re not the only one. It doesn’t say what changes in the medical system we’re talking about. It doesn’t specify Obamacare, or indeed, even reference the Affordable Care Act. The three options — re-energized, thinking about quitting, and “unsure” — hardly seem to cover any logical terrain. Indeed, the question seems almost designed to elicit a negative response.
So to summarize, the right-wing media amplified and promoted a poll with serious methodological problems, run by an organization with a highly dubious history, and even then, they misrepresented what the poll said. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
Image Credit: Sue Peacock