FOX News-Like Distortion of the Truth or Mathematical Incompetence? I Blog, You Decide.

Think fast: what’s wrong with the pie chart titled Should we let US troops land at Shannon on route to Iraq? taken from the Irish Times, shown below?

Pie chart in the Irish Times, showing that 67% is smaller than 33%

Look closely: although the graph’s text correctly reports that 67% of the respondents said “no”, the graph’s graphics make it appear as though the “no” votes are in the minority. Pictured below is a proper rendition of the data, which took me mere seconds to do using Excel:

Corrected version of above pie chart

Not being familiar with the editorial slant of the Irish Times, I cannot say for certain whether it’s a FOX News-like selective view of the truth or mathematical illiteracy (a.k.a. innumeracy) on the part of the graphics editor. Indymedia Ireland thinks it’s the former.

6 replies on “FOX News-Like Distortion of the Truth or Mathematical Incompetence? I Blog, You Decide.”

I think we’re looking at basic operator error on the part of the graphics staff.

Having recent experience both in editing and pie-chart making, I am guessing it is moron editorial staff rather than anything sinister. Just an accident of Photoshop no one caught. I could be entirely wrong, of course.

I am more inclined to believe that it was a mistake, given:

  • The fact that innumeracy is very common
  • Indymedia types are often prone to conspiracy theory.

I couldn’t tell you for sure about the slant of the Times here… but I *can* tell you that at least on the radio, the media types tend to lean very much against using Shannon. So my vote would be for “accidental screwup”. Still funny though.

Subject : Accurate, but deceitful pie charts.
I like your article; your chart is accurate, but deceitful. If I had done this in a science paper, my teacher/professor would have written a comment.

1) Pie chart thickness is unnecessary unless you intend to deceive the reader; it makes the front share look larger than it is. Here, the larger share looks 3 times larger than the small one, instead of 2 times). Why don’t you use a flat chart ?

2) Shares with a bright red color (bright red here) seems much larger than shares with dull colors (light blue here). Use colors of similar intensities unless you want to deceive the reader.

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