Statistics are common tools being used to analyze any particular data in the purpose for forecasting one specific issue or using them to conclude something in general. Perfect graphs are very influential tools for displaying large quantities of complex data. Therefore, they help transfer different ranges of information available today into knowledge. However, some graphs deceive or mislead. A deceptive statistic can occur intentionally or unintentionally, but most of the time, it usually has been designed deliberately to give readers the impression of better performance or results than the actual situation. On the other hand, the person who organizes the graph may want to be precise and authentic, but may possibly deceive the audiences through a poor choice of a graph form or poor graph construction.
Misleading statistics can be classified into two distinctive forms: survey problems and misleading graphs. Choice of sample and question phrasing are the two common problems which make the surveys become unreliable, whereas the misleading graph can be caused by title, labels on both axes of a line or bar chart and on all sections of a pie chart, source of the data, key to a pictograph, uniform size of a symbol in a pictograph, and scale. This essay will first illustrate the crucial reasons and realistic examples of survey problems, and then extent to how misleading graphs appear to be complete misleading statistics. Survey Problems
A survey can be turned into a complete mistake on account of various sources using to conclude it was totally or partly irrelevant and unreliable. In 1936, Literary Digest magazine directed more than 10 million ballots to readers to get their preferences in the upcoming presidential election between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Alfred M. Landon. The results indicated that Landon, the Republican candidate, would receive victory decisively. However, the result of the real election indicated clearly that Roosevelt won in the first great landslide election of the 20th century, by winning in all states except Maine and Vermont.
Another mistake creating by choice of sample is related to the case of ABC Nightline poll when 186,000 viewers each paid 50 cents to call a “900” telephone number with their opinion about keeping the United Nations in the United States(Mario F. Triola, 2010). The results showed that 67% of those who called were in favor of moving the United Nations out of the United States. However, in general view of every citizens in United States, they would prefer to have the United Nations located in their country.
These two bad samples of survey could mislead the readers to catch into a wrong track. The person taking part in the survey might be a group of person who had a strong bias view in that particular issue of the survey, or they just wanted to entertain themselves and confused others. Moreover, these votes could not represent the whole population of the United States and some of the voters were ineligible.
Survey questions is an efficient influential factors of the survey result; therefore, they shall be prepared specifically and effectively. Various ways of asking questions can distinct the consequences of the survey. For instance, 97% said yes to the question of “should the President have the line item veto to eliminate waste?”, whereas only 57% said yes with the question of “should the president have the line item veto, or not?” (Mario F. Triola, 2010)
Furthermore, some types of question will never receive the reliable result from the people, including the question of “Have you ever used illegal drugs?”, “Do you favor a constitutional amendment that would outlaw most abortions?”, “Have you had more than one sexual partner in the past 6 months?” and “Have you ever driven a motor vehicle while intoxicated?” In general, most people will be ashamed of replying to these questions honestly; thus, the result of the survey will be affected. Misleading Graph
A graph can be altered by changing the scale of the graph. One particular example was data in the two graphs of Median Weekly Income for Ages 16-24. (Mario F. Triola, 2010) It seemed to be a big gap by just changing the scale of income in the graph; however, the figure remained the same.
Missing numbers in the graph therefore mislead the interpretation of the graph or chart. Sometimes people just attempt to compare two absolute various figure in order to mislead the reader, especially by comparing the average figures with the best figures. The term average here usually guided readers to different types of result regarding to the tendency of the graph constructors. By missing the number in comparison, readers could be deceived to believe that graph.
Sometimes readers can be deceived through deceptive pictographs. What is wrong with this pictogram showing the number of people who own different types of pets?
On this pictogram there is not a category for those people who do not possess a pet. The pictures are diverse sizes and it displays that more people own a horse than any other animal. An improvement would be to redraw the pictogram with each of the animals the same size and aligned with one another; thus the number of cat owners will be the majority. Conclusion
Statistics have two absolute various faces: the first one is to display a true information and another one is using to mislead people. Therefore, readers have to be cautious to interpret a statistic properly. A reliable statistic should be produced by a government or any independent organization, but audiences have to be smart and flexible whether those statistic’s initiators have any common interest in it or not. I personally feel that we cannot assume that the act of creating misleading statistics is illegal; however, only the audience least critical thinking is the main factor forming this.
Courtney from Study Moose
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