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Thursday, 23 August 2007

Surveys and Statistics.

Survey after survey done or commissioned usually by those with a vested interest in whatever the survey is about almost always come out in support of those who commissioned or did the survey.

Statistic after statistic almost always slewed in favour of those who need a favourable statistic. We all know, or should know, that any statistic or set of statistics have an alternative reading and can in fact be read any way one wants determined by what side you are supporting. Any statistic can be made to look good towards the person or company using the statistic to punt their wares or ideas. As with any percentage based number system there is the good number and the bad number and depending which side you are fighting for depends on which end you settle on.

The results of surveys and statistics are dependent on many factors. Not least of which is geographical location. If you ask a question in an affluent southern area on the U.K. the answer would likely be different if you ask the same question in a not so affluent southern area. Indeed, one can get entirely different figures within a short distance within the same city.

Let us take an example of 4 people. All reside in the same city with an adult population of 200,000 people. All are married with 2 children. All are males. The reason they are all alike is because that is what the survey company was told to find. Charles works as a bank manager and is well up on all things technical. Bill is unemployed but is also well up on all things technical. Michael is an electrician but has no interest in technical things. John works for the local council and has some interest in technical things Now, the survey asks the question. "Do you own or will you be buying a 42inch HDTV within the next 6 months?". Charles states he already owns one. Bill states he has not got one and will not be buying one within the given time frame. Michael states he does not have one but is planning to buy one within 6 months. As does John. In this short survey the results are as follows:

Has or will have = 3
Has not and will not = 1

So, we can see from the above survey that 75% of those surveyed said they have or will have a 42inch HDTV within a 6 month time frame. 25% will not.

Now, those figures are sent back to the company or organisation that paid for the survey who have a vested interest in the sales of HDTV's. They now proclaim that 75% of the U.K. have or will have a HDTV within 6 months.

There was only 4 people in our survey so how come they state 75% of the U.K.? Well, they claim that the 4 people who took the survey are a sample of the U.K. population but of course we all know that not every area of the U.K. is the same and by extension will not fall within the stated percentages but that will not stop this company or organisation from touting the "75% of the U.K." angle as that is the answer they wanted.

Surveys and statistics are utter rubbish and should be read in that light.

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