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Kansas Congressman’s Survey On Affordable Care Act May Be Misleading

Big First Congressman Marshall sent this survey mailer to 50,000 residents of his district.

The Republican majority in Congress is intent on repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Freshman Kansas 1st District Rep. Roger Marshall is on board. So he’s gathering input from constituents on how to proceed with repealing and replacing the ACA with what he calls needed “free-market reforms.”

The Great Bend Republican recently mailed a survey to 50,000 households in the Big First. 

“The purpose of this survey was to let me have some science behind my feelings that everywhere I go, health care is a big concern,” says Marshall. “Based upon this survey, we’ll see specifically how ‘loud’ of an issue this is for my constituents.”

However, the three-question survey designed by Marshall and his staff is not likely to produce scientifically valid results, according to Mike Walker, of the Docking Institute for Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University. Walker, who designs and analyzes surveys regularly, says the questions could lead people to certain responses.

Walker says the first question is especially problematic. It asks, “Have you seen your healthcare premiums or healthcare costs rise since the passage of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act?”

“That should be broken down into maybe three or four questions,” says Walker. “Some of my health care costs may have gone up since the time ACA was passed. That’s a whole ‘nother issue of whether or not the ACA caused them to go up.”

Walker also notes that the survey is accompanied by a letter from Marshall declaring the Affordable Care Act a failure.

“That kind of raises the red flag right there, that it’s really more of a public relations ploy, I think, instead of an actual survey,” Walker says. 

The Director of the Docking Institute, Gary Brinker, says it’s impossible to say for sure what Marshall’s motives are, but the survey looks to him like a “push poll”.

“People use these survey tactics when the purpose of the survey is to support an agenda, not to collect valid data on the way people truly feel about an issue,” says Brinker.

Nonetheless, Marshall thinks his survey is worthwhile.

“I’m not an expert on questionnaires like this. I’m open to suggestions, but I think there will be some valuable data out of this when it’s all said and done,” says Marshall.

His staff says thousands of responses have been received already, and more are pouring in daily. The deadline for returning the survey is the end of March. Marshall’s office promises to post the results of the survey through social media, a press release, and their weekly newsletter.

Marshall got an unexpected response to his survey mailer from constituents who showed up at a ribbon-cutting for his new field office in Salina Friday. 

“Your first postcard is just Republican crap, to be quite blunt,” said Manhattan resident Christopher Renner. Instead of asking if premiums have gone up under the Affordable Care Act, Renner asserted the survey should have asked whether constituents now have healthcare coverage. 

Bryan Thompson is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics in Kansas. You can reach him on Twitter @KSNewsBryan

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

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