Understanding statistics

There are many ways to understand statistics.

You could read some claptrap in the Herald about National party supporting, christian, meat eating, coke drinking, smoking, PC using rooters with tattoos.

Or you read what a statistician thinks about their rubbish article.

Leaving aside the gaping logical chasm in identifying website members as representative of all ‘cheaters’, what the data actually say is that more members support National, not that more National supporters are members.   As you may recall,we determined not so long ago that more New Zealanders of all descriptions support National than any other party, so that’s what you would expect for members of the website.   The proportion of National supporters in the election was 47%, among website members it’s 33%, so National supporters are substantially less likely to be members of the website than supporters of other parties. The proportion identifying as Christian among website members is very similar to the proportion in the 2006 census.   79% of website users are on PC (vs Mac).  Again that’s a lower proportion of PCs than in the population of NZ computers (the Herald said 10% were Macs in July 2010, and for Aus+NZ combined, IDC now says 15%) but one explanation is that Macs have more of the home market than the business market.  More members drinking Coke vs Pepsi is also not surprising — I couldn’t find population figures, but Coke dominates the NZ cola market.

The story doesn’t say, but we can also be pretty confident that the website members are more likely to be Pakeha than Maori, more likely to be accountants than statisticians, and more likely to have a pet cat than a pet camel.

For the record, I am a National party supporter, have a tattoo, am known to smoke cigars, eat meat, drink Coke, and am Christian. My only saving grace is that I don’t have a PC.

One thing the statistics prove to me though is that Labour supporters must be dud roots, they don;t even feature ion the statistics.


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  • OK I am dumb I admit it – how do you do this blog if you don’t own a PC?

  • Groans

    I had a suspicion you might be one of these health nazi’s, clearly not thank goodness.  But if like me you don’t have a PC you gotta get an iPhone.

  • Karl Laird

    The thing that struck me as deliberately misleading about the original article was if only 33% are National supporters – what are the other 67%?  Because we don’t have that many other parties now do we…?

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if Winston Peters has a profile on the Ashley Madison website? Probably not as it would not pass his “what’s in it for me” test.

  • tas

    I thought the same when I read that useless article. Persumably members can also opt not to divulge such information, which hasn’t been mentioned.

    My guess is that some lefty atheist vegetarian journalist wrote that article to show how superior he or she is.

  • Paulus

    The Herald is still desperate for something to put in to attract advertising of cheap specials.

    • Gazzaw

      About as desperate as TV One & TV3 to stem the ‘Fast Forward x 30’ action by the increasing army of My Sky punters. Peak time ads? What peak time ads.

  • Hollyfield

    Presumably there is a cost associated with joining the website, so people with a higher disposable income may be more likely to join than those with smaller incomes.

  • Argon

    67.6% of people ♥ unqualfied statistics

    • Anonymous

      They’ve done studies you know… 60% of the time it works, every time.

  • Engineer

    Remember most people are average.

    • nasska

      It’s worse than you think…half of the people are below average.

      • Thorn

        But it balances out as there are as many people in the upper quartile as there are in the lower quartile. 

  • Gold

    Wouldn’t 84% of people prefer Coke because Coke has like that amount of the market share. And is the superior drink?

    • Politically Unstable

      Or do 42% of the people prefer coke and drink twice as much as any other drinker?