Monday, May 24, 2010

Numbers that lie

It is a crying shame to think that numbers can betray you. 2 + 2 always equals 4. Our dependency on technology demands that 2 + 2 always equal 4. In certain applications  2 + 2 does equal 5 or what ever certain people want it o.

I used to believe that numbers do not lie. In business if a new product is going to make you more money than it costs it is a viable product, if its going to bring in a lot more money than it costs it is a great product. I often thought that the same should go for government, if the numbers show that it is cheaper to do A than it is to do B than you do A.

My wife quickly set me straight on how numbers could easily lie. She deals with it daily in her job as an auditor. It all depends on the person putting the numbers together. Didn't take me long to start thinking of Enron, Tyco, the financial crash, etc.

In college, I had a tough time with statistics and I think I now know why. Statistics are not always black and white. Statistics have a standard deviation, skew, and slant. The slant is all about how the statistics are collected.

Polling is the worst part of statistics. Polling is the accumulation of answers to certain questions producing a percentage of who thinks what on such and such a topic. Those questions can be asked in different was eliciting a different response to essentially the same question.

Ethical political polling takes an enormous amount of integrity, discipline, and you guessed it, ethics. There is a reason we do not believe a poll taken by AOL, Facebook, or any cable news station. They are biased by the people who visit or watch those sites.

It is why a poll on Foxnews always supports a conservative agenda, while MSNBC polls always support the liberal agenda. Anyone who ever claims that 75% of America believes something because they saw a poll taken BY a cable news channel or any news channel, you should promptly punch them in the nose.

The reason for this late night diatribe about how numbers betrayed me is that I found a poll showing that a majority (51%) of Americans are scared of people who openly carry guns in public. The polling went on to show that Americans are scared of other gun related things as well.

I could not find a margin of error or anything else on this poll. I did find that company who performed the polling was hired by the Brady Campaign.

 Okay Okay, I was trolling the Brady Campaign website and found this poll on the front page.

The polling company, Lake Research Partners, has a long client list and you will recognize quite a few. Those I recognize are all liberals aka Democrats.

Here are the big ones:
  • President Bill Clinton
  • Vice President Joe Biden
  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi, CA 08
  • Ann Kirkpatrick, AZ 01
  • Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano
  • Phoenix, AZ Mayor Phil Gordon
  • The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

I am sure the conservatives aka Republicans also have their shill polling company too.

The thought I want to express is this: If these people truly believe in what they are saying then why don't they use a reputable company to perform their polling?

If certain ideologies always use a particular polling company there has to be a reason. That reason is they always provide the results the group hiring them wants to see.

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