A Blog by Jonathan Low


Dec 11, 2015

Uber Sponsored Survey Finds Working For Uber Is Awesome

How reassuring. Assuming your goal is influencing investors and regulators rather than actually managing your workforce effectively. JL

Andrew Hawkins reports in The Verge:

So it goes with corporately financed polls.
Two-thirds of Uber drivers are rookies in the for-hire vehicle business. Almost 20 percent are women. And roughly half of the 400,000 drivers based in the US drive fewer than 10 hours per week on average.
This is the snapshot that emerges from Uber's fast-growing network of "driver partners" (as the San Francisco-based company cloyingly insists on calling them), according to a new survey financed by Uber. Unsurprisingly, the topline figures are overwhelmingly positive: 81 percent of drivers say their overall experience is positive; 97 percent say they are satisfied with the flexibility of their schedules; and 91 percent say they are happy with the way driving for Uber fits in with the rest of their lives.
Uber is fighting for the soul of its workforce
But the survey, which was conducted by President Barack Obama's favorite pollster Joel Benenson, is just as notable for the questions it doesn't ask. There is no sense of how Uber drivers feel about fares, insurance, turnover, tipping, or the lack of benefits. Essentially the poll asks no questions that could reflect poorly on Uber, because why would Uber pay for something like that? It's a glaring oversight, especially with Uber engaged in a very high-profile fight for the right to classify its drivers as independent contractors.
"I think it's safe to approach any numbers that Uber releases with a healthy dose of skepticism," said Harry Campbell, an Uber driver based in California who also runs The Rideshare Guy blog. "It wouldn't make a whole lot of sense for them to release a study that said drivers weren't happy."
So what kind of questions did the pollster ask Uber's drivers? Navel-gazing ones, like how many of them also use Uber as passengers (one in four). Shrug-worthy ones, like how many have kids under 18 (48 percent) or how many are students (11 percent). And just-scratching-the-surface ones, like demographic breakdowns (40 percent are white, 24 percent are African American, 20 percent are Latino, 13 percent are Asian) without any follow-ups about economic stability.
So it goes with corporately financed polls
The problem is, each of these questions begs deeper questions that Uber was either unwilling or uninterested to ask. Do the drivers that use Uber as passengers do so because they don't own the car they use to drive for Uber? What about ancillary costs, like insurance and maintenance? How many drivers live comfortably, and how many are at or near the poverty level?
So it goes with corporately financed polls. The goal is not to provide a meaningful, nuanced portrait of its driver class. Rather it's to promote the idea of Uber as America's most flexible workplace. Turn it on when you want to earn some money, and turn it off when you're done. This helps in Uber's ongoing battle with regulators and competitors, as well as critics who decry its labor practices. Who are they to say Uber's drivers deserve better? After all, 81 percent of them are having the time of their lives.


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