The 2012 Presidential Election season is upon us. I don't know about you, but other than the barrage of commercials, the thing I like least about political campaigns is the terrible abuse of numbers. Combined with the current debate on the debt limit and we have the makings of a tsunami of misleading or outright incorrect statistics.
A few weeks ago, Megan Holstine started a discussion about a Senator using a totally made up statistic. Sadly for him, he quoted a number that was far from accurate, but also one that was easily verified. His defense was that he didn't intend the statistic to be taken "literally".
Makes me wonder if perhaps we've got it wrong. Think of the possibilities for us if we stopped taking numbers literally!
A short list of taking numbers literally:
In some states you need a license to be a florist or interior designer (among other things). The justification is that these jobs pose a danger to the public. I'd love to see a license to quote statistics, after all, we could get our clients in a lot of trouble if we misused numbers as noted above so clearly quoting statistics is far more dangerous than a dozen roses ever could be.
Sadly, I don't see our elected officials giving up their best trick that easily. So we'll have to settle for being active citizens spreading our understanding of numbers. Whether that is by alerting the media, blogging, commenting or whatever...every little bit helps.
Rich brings a passion for quantitative data and the use of choice to understand consumer behavior to his blog entries. His unique perspective has allowed him to muse on subjects as far afield as Dinosaurs and advanced technology with insight into what each can teach us about doing better research.