The Numbers

Be very wary of any numbers given out without the data behind them…

73% of Americans believe…

One in three people support…

This affects one in every ten…

How did they arrive at that figure? How many people did they survey? What was the actual question asked? Was there A/B testing across a variety of different groups? Where were those people from? Was there a mix of rural and urban? Was it diverse racially and income wise? Unless you and all of your neighbors were polled, be wary; the numbers are a guess in the best light or pure propaganda in the worst.

Numbers are often used to sway and influence opinion and it is especially true when the data behind them, the math, is purposefully opaque. The news media, politicians, professionals, companies, and even fellow citizens do this all the time. They know that people, in general, like our beliefs validated and like being with the "winners". Therefore, if I say a high ratio of some such thing want some other such thing, people will be swayed to include themselves in that "winning" number.

Worse, even if the math behind the numbers is included freely, we the people often don’t bother checking it. We accept it at face value. This is dangerous and foolish and as good as not having the data at all.

Stop this. Always question the numbers. Ask for the data. Get the facts. Check the math.