The recently-released Wichita/Sedgwick County Community Investment Plan survey results provide another opportunity to look at the survey process to see if the results will be useful as our city looks to the future.
Here are two examples of questions that have such severe problems that the results are not likely to be a reliable indicator of what citizens believe and what they want government to do.
One problematic question survey participants answered is this: “Local government should … continue to use public resources to encourage airlines to increase the number and reduce the cost of flights through Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.”
Reading this question, you would assume that public resources have increased the number of flights, wouldn’t you?
Another related question: “Recommended Change in Investment [to] Increase the number of flights and decrease the cost to fly into and out of the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.”
Again, it would be natural for survey respondents to assume that investment has been successful in increasing the number of flights.
Here’s the problem: If we consider the number of monthly departing flights, Wichita isn’t doing well compared to the nation. The chart at the end of this article illustrates.
(Since this data is highly seasonal, I present a 12-month moving average, so that each point plotted is the average of the previous 12 months data. Also, I index January 2000 to 100.)
Of particular note is that over the past two or three years, the trend of flights nationally is level, while the trend of flights available in Wichita is declining.
This trend is an example of unintended consequences of government intervention and regulation. The Affordable Airfares program imposes a rough form of price control on airfares in Wichita. If the program didn’t do that — and it appears it succeeds at this goal — then there would be no point in having the program. The inevitable effect of price controls is that less is supplied, compared to what would have been supplied. This economic phenomenon is reliable and predictable.
While travelers prefer low air fares to high, this is not the only consideration. For those who need to travel on short notice, the availability of flights is very important.
The problem we have regarding the survey is that the questions would lead survey participants to assume that the city has been successful in increasing the number of flights available in Wichita. But the data doesn’t support the premises to these two questions. The questions are based on inaccurate facts. This, in turn, casts doubt over the reliability and usefulness of these questions.
(For more about flights in Wichita, see In Wichita, confusion over air traffic statistics.)