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#1064560 24th Jan 2019 1:46pm
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I personally would like to be told about actual numbers as well as %s, as I think just a % is a way of dumbing down things so that they more or less just go over the general population heads.
Typically %s made by politicians and the media.
Another bugbear with me is when politicians often say a majority of people want what that politician wants done.
How do they know what 60 odd million think or want at that particular time (apart from general elections or referendums results which could change further down the line)
Can many mps answer an awkward for them a straight forward question with a yes or no answer

sorry for rambling on

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It works both ways, percentage is a good indication of majority (proportion) displayed as one figure eg

If I said that there are 50 broken items in my warehouse you can't tell if that is significant or not, if I only have 100 items in the warehouse then its very significant, if I have a million items its almost irrelevant, the corresponding percentages are 50% and 0.005% which give an instant indication.

What I don't like about media statistics is they often don't tell you the scope eg If the Wirral Globe says 30% of people have had measles, are they talking about in the Wirral, in England, in the UK or in the World?

There are always ways of wording things to mislead, whether intentional or not, part of that comes from the old problem of trying to create a statement that is true. The standard answer that is often used is along the lines of "I am going to die" but that is not a certainty for a number of reasons, a good answer I came across is "I have written this sentence" which I think would be better as "I have thought this sentence".

Then there are perfectly true statements that appear to be contradictory when they aren't eg (along the lines of) 70% of people that have had measles have had measles.

Have I out-rambled you?


We don't do charity in Germany, We pay taxes. Charity is a failure of governments' responsibilities - Henning Wehn
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If I said that there are 50 broken items in my warehouse you can't tell if that is significant or not, if I only have 100 items in the warehouse then its very significant, if I have a million items its almost irrelevant, the corresponding percentages are 50% and 0.005% which give an instant indication.

[/quote]

If you just said the percentages and not what they were a percentage of (the 50 or a million) I would be none the wiser, ergo that's why I would like to see numbers as well as percentages.
eg There is talk of cutting the number police horses by 50%, that is 150 out of 300

yes you outrambled me

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What a good job there isn't an odd number of police horses - that could get a bit Damien Hurst...

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Percentages and actual numbers are often used to political ends. It's up to you to look behind what is said to assess for yourself whether it's meaningful or not.

A recent example was the 14% increase in UK homicides. The actual number was an increase of 90. You are fifteen times more likely to be killed by a domestic accident than to be murdered, even after this increase!

And if you don't live in London, are not young, a member of a gang or involved in the supply of drugs, then you are more likely to be struck by lightning than to be murdered.

The police play this up in the hope of more funding, the newspapers play along to sell copies, and politicians use it to bash the government for not having more police, although its hard to see how more police could have reduced this increase anyway. Their job is primarily to catch murderers after the event, rather than preventing them in the first place.

'Knife crime' is another area where it's up to you to look behind the news and the statistics. I'd been using a Stanley knife to trim some photographs and unthinkingly slipped the thing into my pocket. I later went to the supermarket and discovered it in my pocket. Had I been involved in a crime there such as shoplifting, I would have been charged, also, of a knife crime!

My point is that nobody will do your homework for you. Indeed, they will rely on your NOT doing it to manipulate your opinions as they see fit. It's entirely up to you to convert percentages into numbers and vice versa and make your own assessment of whether the way they are used is fair. NOT doing so makes you a mouthpiece for someone else's views.


Last edited by Excoriator; 25th Jan 2019 12:26pm.
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How to Lie With Statistics is a very popular book.
https://www.ebay.co.uk/i/143096368581?chn=ps

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It looks like you can read that book online and possibly download it

click to read

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Cosmetic products are guilty of this. You often see in adverts that 95% of people think blah blah but the number at the bottom of the screen is something like 38 out of 39 people and not a decent sample size.


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