Saturday, 3 July 2010

Fun with numbers

One article from the Mail and one from the Sun today which both show a less than comprehensive grasp of statistics. But it's not solely down to stupidity - the headlines they have used fit their agenda, even if the numbers don't.

So from the Mail:

'Winning banned in two-thirds of schools'. And the article does reveal a new poll that:

surveyed almost 300 primary and secondary schools and found that 69 per cent reward all participants in sports days.

It doesn't explain what these rewards are, but that doesn't necessarily mean 'winning' is 'banned'.

Indeed, it then goes on to totally contradict the headline:

Nine per cent of all schools refuse to single out any winners at all.

Ah. So it's only 9% then. Not two-thirds.

Over in the Sun, a report on a poll about a referendum on changing the voting system. YouGov asked:

In view of spending cuts, is it appropriate to spend £80million on an AV referendum now?

It's not clear where the £80million figure comes from - the article states it could cost 'up to' that amount. And while 46% said inappropriate, 35% said appropriate and 19% said don't know.

But they also asked:

Regardless of how you would vote, do you support the principle of holding a referendum?

69% said yes and only 12% were opposed.

The Sun's headline for this support for a referendum?

The Sun oppose the referendum, as the Mail wants everyone to think political correctness has gone mad at school sports days, hence the headlines. Presumably they just hope people won't notice what's actually been said.

(Hat-tip Adam Bienkov)


  1. Classic behaviour from the tabs, but also I wouldn't put too much faith in YouGov polls as an accurate measure of people's opinions. You get paid for each poll you answer and sometimes there can be several per week, so a lot of respondents (myself included it has to be said - though I rarely answer them at all now) simply click on "Don't know" or the first thing they see just to get to the end of the thing. Not to mention the rigid structure of the multiple choice options and the ludicrously leading way in which many of the questions are phrased.

  2. The Murdoch press wouldn't think a referendum was a waste of money if it was on any subject to do with the EU, would it?

  3. The DM have been plugging the ConDem line that they are going to 'reintroduce' competitive sports in schools for the past couple of weeks despite lots of comments with evidence to the contrary -including mine.

    If schools have not had competitive sports, I want to know where the hell my daughter has been when she was allegedly playing netball and rounders against other schools for the past few years.

    And telling people about the London Youth Games which involves schools in all London boroughs doesn't wash either. The line is 'no competitive sports because of these lefty PC gone mad liberals', and there ain't a thing that anyone can say that will persuade them otherwise.

  4. The other salient thing to note is that nearly all sports commentators agree that part of the reason for England's terrible performance at this year's World Cup is that English kids play competitive games too early. It stunts growth and hinders creativity. In Spain (the winners!), children don't play competitive games until much later than here.


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