The ethical use of numbers

The local LibDems annoy me, or rather whoever writes their leaflets does. The writing style is often an attack on the Conservatives – obviously not necessarily a bad thing but it always seems so negative an approach; it can look like you have nothing good to say about your own efforts so have to resort to slagging off the opposition.

A recent leaflet went a step further and decided to just straight out distort numbers to try and show Labour were not worth voting for in the area if you wanted to evict the Tories.

Doesn’t Labour’s portion of the vote look tiny? The Conservatives look like having three times the Labour vote! Not surprising as this is a bar chart missing a vertical axis starting at zero. Classic way of cheating with graphs.

And doesn’t the LibDem vote look really close to the Conservatives? Almost neck and neck. Except that that is where the LibDem bar should be if they had 760 votes. As there is no scale on the left, you can’t quickly see that what’s been done.

The real graph should look like:

As you can see, Labour is still in 3rd place but not miles behind. Similarly, LibDems are in 2nd but not right behind the Tories. And that’s on a 45% turnout.

I expect that whoever produces this leaflet thinks that the end justifies the means. I would prefer to vote for an ethical party, though.

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