“Most Important Problem” ≠ “Only Problem”

I am flabbergasted that neither Calculated Risk’s readers nor, apparently, Calculated Risk recognize that the NFIB survey that CR posts on does not say that small businesses reckon inadequate demand as their only problem. Indeed, as I read the graph that CR reproduces fully 2/3s of small business owners report that something other than low demand is their main problem.

I’m a member of NFIB, participate in these surveys regularly, and read them when they come out. If you add concerns about regulatory uncertainty and taxes together, more small business owners report them as their main problem.

If you add to those the number who view the high cost of healthcare insurance as their main problem, it accounts for nearly all small business owners.

8 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    I think the original numbers and charts are on page 20 of this pdf:


    Indeed taxes (23%) and government regulation/red tape (16%) together account for more than poor sales (30%).

  • Yeah, I didn’t bother looking at the table. The worries about taxes and government regulation having been going up for months.

    I think that this result is in part an example of how to condition the response by the question. You could as easily divide demand into multiple categores, e.g. not enough retail sales, not enough home buyers, not enough business sales, and you’d split the demand response, too.

  • john personna Link

    Sorry, that lack of demand is the largest single answer is significant.

    That you can add tax + regulation to make your own category is somewhat interesting as well, but it’s not like you scored the top answer fair and square.

    Jeez, discussing the actual top answer is not an error.

  • I didn’t say it was an error. I said that it didn’t adequately represent the actual responses. The title says it all.

  • john personna Link

    Well, remember where I’m coming from. I’ve been saying for a few months that lack of demand was the number one problem, as other folks told us their friends reported otherwise.

    This poll confirms my intuition.

    But ;-), if you add two other categories together you can beat it.

  • There are any number of true statements that could be made about the results of the survey:

    • The single most common response was low demand.
    • A plurality of respondents said low demand.
    • Reasons other than low demand outweighed low demand by more than two to 1.
    • More respondents thought that taxes or regulatory uncertainty were their most important problem than said that low demand was their most important problem (these were the only two responses about which that could be said, BTW)

    They’re all true but they all give an incomplete view of the results and markedly different impressions of the results. That was my point.

  • PD Shaw Link

    It’s also true that the category of regulatory/red tape has shown the most change over the last year of any of the categories. It’s increased about 45% from last year.

  • john personna Link

    Over the last year? We were already in the crunch at that point.

    Check out the long term graphs, from 1986 to present, in particular the one at the bottom of page 18.

    Poor sales has never in the last 25 years been the Most Important Problem, until this slump.

    Geez. Get a grip guys. Try to make it a little less obvious that you are playing “how can we blame the goverment?”

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