Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Lying with Statistics: A Second Case

"Poll: Clinton gets high 'no' vote for 2008"

That is the headline of a story on today's CNN web page. Someone who actually reads the story, however, will discover that 47% of those polled said they would definitely vote against Hilary Clinton, 47% against Kerry 48% against Gore, and 63% against Jeb Bush. It is true that McCain scored 34% and Giuliani 30%, but that puts Hilary in the middle of the unpopularity ratings and not, as the headline implies, at the top.

She did, however, have one distinction—the highest positive rating. 22% of those polled said they would definitely vote for her. The other candidates had ratings ranging from 19% (Giuliani) down to 9% (Jeb Bush).

I have to confess that my title for this post is also misleading. My previous example offered statistics that appeared, if you did not pay attention, to support its misleading headline. This one does not. Strictly speaking it is not lying with statistics but about statistics.

I should add, for the benefit of anyone to whom it is not obvious, that I am not a supporter of Hilary Clinton.

Merely of the truth.


At 5:11 AM, June 20, 2006, Blogger rickthefightguy said...

There is the possibility that they didn't mean 'high' in the sense of 'highest', but rather in the sense of 'pretty durn high'. As in "Wow, Hilary sure got a pretty high 'no' vote."

At 5:19 AM, June 20, 2006, Blogger TJIC said...

I agree with 'rickthefightguy'.

If the article was introduced without context, and was addressing which candidates have high negatives, it might be a bit misleading to call out by name in the headline that the person with the third highest negatives.

...but the actual context is that many think that Hillary has a cakewalk to the presidency. Her name recognition among the general populace is likely that of Giuliani and McCain combined.

Someone with the last name "Bush" has high negatives? Not news.

The anointed Next President does? News.

At 9:41 AM, June 20, 2006, Blogger autodogmatic.com said...

It seems like your second point about the high positive ratings makes a better (Subjective statement, of course) case for lying about statistics. The implication of the headline is that Hilary may not represent a strong candidate in 2008 when based on the statistics, she seems to have an adamant supporting group (22%).

At 8:22 PM, June 20, 2006, Blogger SheetWise said...

autodogmatic -

Being the only woman on the list, the 22% for Hillary may not mean anything either. Toss another woman in the ring, either as a candidate or running mate, and a lot of that may disappear. I doubt that '08 will see any of the usual suspects.

At 12:07 AM, June 22, 2006, Blogger Russell said...

sheetwise: Ann Coulter? :-)

At 7:27 AM, June 22, 2006, Blogger SheetWise said...

Russel -

Hillary vs. Ann? While I can appreciate politics as a spectator sport -- and I'm sure a good cat fight would raise it to Super Bowl status -- I don't think the country could survive a year long championship fight.

I think Hillary should retire with her reputation intact. At least 22% of the country think she's "the smartest woman in America" -- it would be impossible to survive a presidential campaign without the truth becoming obvious. And that would be ugly.

At 7:42 AM, June 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The term "high" obviously raises the question "relative to what?"

I think it's not necessarily correct to assume it's relative to other candidates.

A good case can be made that 47% is "high" relative to the amount of "non-votes" that make one electable.

At 10:00 PM, June 23, 2006, Blogger BLOG REVIEWS said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6:07 AM, June 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A somewhat personal question to David: do you ever vote in elections (national, local, departmental, etc.)?
Also, you would probably enjoy reading this analysis by David Madore of the US presidential election system.

At 12:10 PM, June 27, 2006, Blogger David Friedman said...

Daniel asks if I ever vote.

Quite often. I regard it as an expressive activity, not as a way of changing the world. I usually vote for libertarian candidates and against spending proposals.

There was one election before which I got a mailing from the Democratic candidate for congress, describing all the evil things her opponent was in favor of. Since I was in favor of all of them, I felt an obligation to vote for him, and did.

At 7:03 AM, July 06, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Do many people really believe Hillary Clinton has a cakewalk to the presidency? From what I've heard, Republicans would love to face her. No other opponent could do as much to energize the Republican money machine.

My wife has worked in the O.R. with many doctors the past 15 years. In that environment, with unconscious patients, surgeons feel free to speak their minds. My wife tells me that MD's still hate Hillary just as much as they did in 1993. My bet is that they'll outspend trial lawyers by a factor of 10.

At 11:54 AM, September 11, 2006, Blogger bronco said...

I think most Americans would actually vote if they could vote "against" a candidate...but unfortunately, they have to vote "for" somebody and that may take principles and result in imperfect outcomes...which most people are against...in principle...


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