Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The uses of statistics

Do you ever wonder how political ads come up with seemingly contradictory statistics on matters of public policy? It’s easy. For example, let’s examine the question of which political party is best at creating jobs.

The answer is Republicans.

Or Democrats.

It depends on how you use your statistics.

And political ads use them in many ways.

A recent news story on the top five job-generating states shows that three of them have Republican governors. Call that 60%. Republicans win.

But if we tweak the numbers, we learn that the two Democratic governors were in large states that created 54% of the new jobs. Democrats win.

So when political adds tout the job-creating abilities of a certain political party, you might ask yourself how they came up with those numbers, and how relevant those numbers are to the situation in your state.

By the way, the numbers used here just reflect payrolls in June. Depending on a campaign’s needs, statistics in political ads tend to use those months that make their candidate look good and the opponent look bad. Therefore, it is good to know whether a candidate is citing all the numbers, or just those that make the candidate look good.

As for the recent job numbers, you can read more here.

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