MISLEADING GRAPHS Misleading graphs are sometimes deliberately misleading and sometimes its just a case of people not understanding the data behind the graph they create. The classic types of misleading graphs include cases where: The vertical scale is too big or too small, or skips numbers, or doesnt start at zero. The graph isnt labeled properly. Data is left out.
But some real life misleading graphs go above and beyond the classic types. Some are intended to mislead, others are intended to shock. And in some cases, well-meaning individuals just got it all plain wrong. These are some of my favorite recent-history The times leaves the rest behindor does it? You might be thinking that the graph below shows the times makes double the sales of the daily telegraph. But take a closer look at the scale and youll see although the times does make more sales, its only beating the
competition by about 10%. USA Today USA Today is notorious for fussy graphs that have too much information and mislead. This graph makes our welfare problem look like its
spiraling out of control. But note where the y-axis USA TODAY This one has the correct figures, but that BIG HEADLINE makes you think that 5.3% of children get spinal cord injuriesa pretty scary statistic for parents.
For the record, the real figure is about .0000003% (based on 2000 injuries per year out of a population of around 74,000,000). FOX NEWS Fox news showed this chart of what would happen if the bush tax cuts expired. Disastrous, right? Again,
check the scale (it starts at 34). All is not what it seems. FOX NEWS Not to keep on bashing on fox news, but their name came up time and time again when searching for misleading graphs from real life. Heres another, designed to show that after a small drop in
unemployment it went up and up in the Obama administration. Note that the value for November (8.6) has not been plotted correctly. Its placed at the 9.0 position. Thats not the only problem with this graph. Its been plotted to look like theres a steep incline when in fact, Heres what the graph should look like if it
had been plotted correctly. See the difference? ONE MORE EXAMPLE.. Terry Schiavo was removed from life support after a years-long court battle. CNN used a graph similar to the one below to show who agreed with the decision to remove the feeding tube. A fist look at this graph makes it look like
three times as many democrats supported the decision. But on closer inspection, note the scale on the vertical axis. Only slightly more democrats supported than republicans (62% vs. 54%). MISSING BASELINE What is the problem with these particular misleading graphs from real life? In general, graphs should show a baseline. A baseline is zero on the vertical scale. Graphs that have a missing baseline and
start at some arbitrary number (34 on the fox news image) tend to be very misleading. When you look at a graph and try to figure out if its a true representation of whats really going on, check that baseline. INCOMPLETE DATA If you really want to make a shocking statement, make sure you only include part of the data. Take this first
example of a misleading graph that proves global warming is real. Whats wrong with this picture? It only shows the first half of the year, so of course DEFICIT AN ONGOING PROBLEM! Heres another example of incomplete data. This graph
makes it look like the deficit has always been high, because the graph starts in 2009. This might lead you to think that the deficit has been an ongoing problem. It hasnt: the deficit was just 1.2 percent of GDP in 2007, when PALIN FOR PRES!
Apparently 70% of people backed Palin in the 2012 presidential run. But wait! The fox news statisticians have been at it again. A pie chart should add up to 100%. Not this one:
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