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A Consulting Firm Hired By Uber Found That Its Drivers Are Very Happy

The company released the results of a survey Monday morning that paints a selective portrait of its drivers.

A Consulting Firm Hired By Uber Found That Its Drivers Are Very Happy
[Photo: Flickr user Thomas Anderson]

Uber released a survey on Monday whose findings tend to support its position in misclassification lawsuits and regulatory battles. The survey found the ride-hailing company’s drivers are happier than ever and most work part-time, but it has also been criticized for excluding key data points like driver earnings and how many drivers work full-time–omissions that are less surprising when you consider that the study was conducted by a brand strategy firm.

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The survey polled 833 of Uber’s more than 400,000 drivers. Eighty-one percent of them said they were satisfied with the experience of driving for Uber, a slight increase over the 78% who gave the same response in a similar survey released back in January 2015.

Uber, which is facing lawsuits in several states alleging that its drivers–though classified as contractors–are treated as employees, has argued that it serves as a flexible option for people to earn supplemental income on their own terms. The survey found that 69% of its drivers have other full-time or part-time work outside of Uber, and that 50% drive fewer than 10 hours per week on average. Almost all the drivers, 97% of participants, said they were satisfied with the flexibility that Uber allowed them.

Uber has also cast itself as an option for students, parents working around children’s schedules, and people between jobs. The survey reported that 11% of its drivers are students, 48% have children 18 years old or younger living at home, and 67% had no prior professional driving experience.

Just as important, however, is what doesn’t appear in the survey results. Though the survey reported that most drivers are part-time drivers, it did not report how many drivers worked more than 40 hours per week (20% rely on Uber as their sole source of income). Last year, the survey reported that drivers who had previously driven taxis earned $23 per hour but that did not account for driver expenses, like gas, that significantly reduce take-home pay. This year, during which some drivers have complained about fare cuts that impact their pay, there’s no information about driver pay. Though the survey examines whether drivers like the flexibility on the platform, it doesn’t ask them, for instance, whether they’re happy with their pay or the way that the company communicates with them.

Uber’s survey seems to paint a selective picture of its drivers. Which is exactly what it’s designed to do. Like many companies, Uber hired a brand strategy firm called Benenson Strategy Group to incorporate data into its message.

The firm has worked for political campaigns like Barack Obama’s as well as corporations like Toyota, Southwest, and Walmart. Under a tab called “What we do,” Benenson Strategy Group’s website explains that it “help[s] brands connect with consumers’ emotions” by collecting and integrating different data sources and drawing upon “language expertise” to “connect the dots between your brand story and your target audience.”

About the author

Sarah Kessler is a senior writer at Fast Company, where she writes about the on-demand/gig/sharing "economies" and the future of work.

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