How Reliable are Statistics?

The real question is how reliable is the reporter? And, do they have their own agenda? What would they like you to believe? Is there any motivation for “propaganda”?

Let’s consider the 2012 Olympics. There were all kinds of new statistics there, and right now we are at a point where no one really cares, or even remembers, for that matter.

Canada did pretty well when it came to the medal count: 1 gold, 5 silver, 12 bronze for 18 in total. We kept seeing Canada’s progress and the final report of being 13th overall.

However, that was the information which you received if you followed the CTV coverage. Here’s an excerpt of the Medal Table:

1 United States ~ 46, 29, 29, 104

2 China ~ 38, 27, 23, 88

3 Russia ~ 24, 26, 32, 82

4 Great Britain ~ 29, 17, 19, 65

13 Canada ~ 1, 5, 12, 18

Now, let’s have a look at the Official 2012 Olympic results as posted. Here’s an excerpt of the Medal Count:

1 United States ~ 46, 29, 29, 104

2 China ~ 38, 27, 23, 88

3 Great Britain ~ 29, 17, 19, 65

4 Russia ~ 24, 26, 32, 82

36 Canada ~ 1, 5, 12, 18

So, what was the difference? Great Britain moved ahead of Russia into the #3 position and Canada dropped to #36.

Why? Quite simple. The official results report and rank countries on the basis of gold medals first, then silver, then bronze. Clearly, they emphasize the significance of the gold medal performance.

When it came to the CTV coverage, you will notice that CTV did not use the Medal Count as it is used officially. It came up with its own Medal Table. This new Table allowed the creativity of counting up all the medals, and ranking the countries in the order of the aggregate medals won in total.

I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone is using the same basic facts and numbers. The spin is placed on the presentation of the very same information. What looks best!

Canada ranking at #13, obviously looks better than Canada at #36.

However, if you were in Great Britain hosting the games, you would prefer to use the official Olympic Medal Count, which would show your country at #3 rather than #4.

This is not to say that one presentation method is better than the other. Each method is suitable to its audience.

The same thing is true when it comes to real estate information. The actual numbers may be the same and all come from the same source. They are factual and accurate. But, you must consider the “spin”. Depending upon the source of the report, what would that reporter wish you to believe and conclude? Do they have their own agenda?

Sometimes, two different reporters will take the same basic facts and statistics to substantiate opposite arguments. To some extent, you are left on your own. It’s best to draw your own conclusions only after you have considered the information from several different sources.

Brian Madigan LL.B., Broker

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