The top headline on CNN today made me feel the need to revisit my comments about how statistics are creatively used, primarily in popular news reporting.
First, I need to ask you to put aside your feelings about the war in Iraq – this is not a discussion on whether we should be there or whether we should have ever gone there in the first place. I am not asking your opinion of whether troops should be pulled out right away or any of that. What I am asking is that you evaluate what is being said in this headline and decide whether it was skewed according to the agenda of the reporter and likely CNN in general.
The headline states that “Most” what the withdrawal by 2008 or sooner, which is seemingly a fair statement. Read the first line of the summation next: “Nearly six in 10 Americans…” What exactly does nearly mean? Typically close to or so close that you could assume it has reached that number. If you read the article, there are plenty of other statistics quoted for various points, but we are never given the exact number that justifies their statement of “nearly.” Update: They have now added that it is 58% to the inside headline.
What bothers me is that a slim majority in a poll that likely has a margin of error that could drop it under 50% majority does not constitute the claim of “most.” Most indicate a vast majority such as 7 in 10 or higher. Again, this is not a question of your stance on the war and political situation, but on the slanted reporting habits that are clearly aimed at laying the groundwork to a political party change in the white house in this coming election. CNN has a clear agenda, just read between the headlines each day and see how things are reported. Every republican or independent party or individual has a negative spin regardless of the meat of the item being reported, and the opposite is typically true of anything from the Democrats.
I like to think of myself as a conservative independent, so this type of reporting always bothers me. I never vote by party and I try to be educated and vote for candidates that most closely represent my opinions on important issues. Unfortunately, I don’t have the general public makes enough effort to get to the facts and often takes headlines at face value. That belief pains me because news agencies so clearly have lost all ability to report in an unbiased fashion. This goes for news agencies on both sides of the fence.
So, once again, read carefully any time you see stats quoted or referenced to justify a point. Expect that most reporting may be a bit shady, and you will likely be closer to the truth.