clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

DON'T SENSATIONALIZE POLL STATISTICS

To the editor:

When is a front-page story in the Deseret News not worthy of being a front-page story? When journalistic license is used to juggle statistics to make a sensationalistic point.The article in question was Bob Bernick's lead story (March 1). Bernick reported on a recent Dan Jones poll that asked, among other things, "Are you better off or worse off economically than you were four years ago?

The results (as displayed in an accompanying graphic) were pretty straightforward: 21 percent were definitely better off; 25 percent were probably better off; 20 percent were about the same; 19 percent were probably worse off, and 15 percent were definitely worse off.

The first part of the article then focused on the "news" that more than half of those surveyed (54 percent) were "worse off or about the same" as they were four years ago. Unfortunately, what Bernick's article didn't say was that two-thirds of those surveyed (66 percent) were better off or about the same as they were four years ago.

Can both statements be true? Yes - that's the beauty of statistics. They can prove almost anything.

A better way to compare whether or not Utahns are better or worse off than they were four years ago is to leave out the "about the same" category. This would show that 46 percent feel better off, while 34 percent feel worse off.

David L. Politis

Salt Lake City

Editor's Note: The story said that a majority of Utahns consider themselves worse off economically or about the same economically as they were four years ago. Jones' poll numbers do show that. Add 20 percent who said they are the same to the 19 percent who said they are probably worse off and the 15 percent who said they are definitely worse off and it totals 54 percent - a majority.

One can also argue that the 20 percent who said that they are about the same economically should be added to the 46 percent who said they are better off - and conclude that a majority are satisfied.

But the poll was conducted with an eye toward November's election - and how satisfied Utahns are economically when they vote for president, Congress, governor and Utah Legislature.

Historically, those who are content with their financial status and the direction of the country look favorably on incumbents seeking re-election. Those dissatisfied with their economic conditions - and those who haven't progressed financially over four years are likely less than satisfied with their progress - look less favorably on incumbents' performances. The story was written from that perspective.