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Bob Haase's Another Can Of Worms

03-Jul-2014

Validity of Statistics

Have you ever questioned the validity of the statistics that are used to try to sell us something or convince us to do something?   Just recently I heard a commercial about a medical alert system and they stated that one out of every three people have a serious fall every year.  Hearing that,  I tried to remember all the people that I knew and how many of them had a serious fall. I could only think of one person out of a list of around 200.  Out of the people I knew, there was only one out of every 200 not one out of every three that had a serious fall during the last year.  Take some time to think about this statistic.  Has one out of every three people you know had a serious fall during the last year?

As you hear these different figures quoted have you ever wondered how they came up with those figures and how accurate they really are?  I represent the musky clubs in Wisconsin on the DNR Musky Management Team and we often talk about how many muskies are actually kept every year since so many fishermen practice catch and release.  To me this is important because if there are not that many fish kept, why do we spend so much time on size limits.  Years ago the tribes in northern Wisconsin put out a publication that I picked up at the Milwaukee Sentinel Sport Show about tribal spearing.  In this publication it stated that non tribal fishermen caught and kept over 800,000 muskies every year.  I questioned that figure with one of the tribal members at their booth and they said that if I did not have an accurate record of the muskies kept any number they quoted would be as accurate as mine so they could quote any figure they wanted.  I had to agree with them because what they said was true.

If we don't know or keep accurate records, I guess people can quote any figure they want and claim to be correct. The trouble with this is that decisions are made on purchasing items based on false or biased information.  We find this type of statistical information used a lot around election time by the different candidates on things such as how many jobs were created.  A candidate might state that they created 50,000 jobs and this might be true.  If there were 100,000 jobs lost during this time the statement might still be true that they created 50,000 jobs but they actually lost 50,000 jobs.

 Another reason that people quote statistics based on what they want it to be is that so few people question the validity of the statistics used.  The next time you listen to adds or someone wanting you to support their campaign or their following and they quote a statistic, take the time to think about it and question it.  If it doesn't sound right take the time to check it out.  If someone is misleading you by using misleading or inaccurate statistics you might not want to buy from them or support them in their campaign.  How can you trust someone that isn't telling you the truth?

Bob Haase is the host of “Outdoors Thursday” heard Thursday mornings at 9:10 a.m. on News-Talk 1450 KFIZ.

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