Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse


1:51 pm - March 16th 2010

by Unity    


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Spring is a time of year that full of firsts. The first newborn lambs. The first snowdrops and daffodills…

…and the first election leaflets to feature an inaccurately drawn graphs, the credit for which appears to be going [inevitably] to the Lib Dems in Camden for this delightful effort>

(Hat Tip: Ben Goldacre)

Obviously, the actual graph that Ben ran across is on the left with my own rather pointed commentary on the right.

So, what are we going to do about this kind of thing?

Rather than run through the usual exercise of taking the piss on a case by case basis, I thought we might try a bit of different approach in an effort to encourage political parties to be a bit more honest in their dealings with the y-axis.

So, today, I’d like to announce the official launch of Liberal Conspiracy’s own Graph-Fix service, which is open to all our readers of whatever political persuasion.

The way the service works is all pretty straightforward.

If you do receive an election leaflet that features a dodgy-looking graph, and it can be any kind of graph from any party, not just the LibDems, then all you need do is send a scan or digital photograph of the graph to me at talkpoliticsuk[at]gmail[dot]com along with the details of the party/candidate responsible and the constituency in which it was delivered.

For purely practical reasons, I would prefer that you only send General Election leaflets – unless you run across something particularly egregious in a local election leaflet – and because there are a fair number of boundary changes this time out, you should also include any information that the leaflet might contain about the source of the information contained in the graph.

I’ll then check the graph for accuracy and, if necessary, redo it so that it provides an accurate visual representation of the information it contains, after which I’ll contact the party in question and send them over a set of corrected image files for future use, including a high quality .eps file for use in their printed materials and jpeg and png files for use on their website.

If we get a few of these, then I’ll also produce a weekly round-up/rogue’s gallery post of the most egregious pieces of y-axis abuse I’ve received that week together with a few suitably sarcastic comments to keep you all entertained.

And that’s all there is to it…

Oh, and regardless of whether you do choose to make use of this service, I would still recommend that you take the time to scan and upload any leaflets you receive to the Straight Choice’s live election leaflet archive.

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About the author
'Unity' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He also blogs at Ministry of Truth.
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Reader comments


I thought this was the example of the worst election graph ever…

http://chrishyland.blogspot.com/2009/12/worst-graph-ever.html

Great initiative – of course most of the dodgy graphs are dodgy because they portray something that has no bearing on the actual election they are talking about (like noting how many councillors they have on a council to tell voters only they have a chance in a ward where they come fourth, for example).

Shouldn’t that be talkpoliticsuk[at]gmail[.]com rather than what you wrote?

[Edited to remove the spambot fodder]

Wow, that is really bad but will keep my eyes peeled, live in a Tory area so get plenty of their leaflets through me door, I’ll see if we have an outbreak of bad graphs.

@2

I presume the email address was typed that way to avoid spambots grabbing it… which your post makes rather redundant :/

It’s worth pointing out that the ASA routinely bans advertisements from companies which pull this kind of stunt. I appreciate that government monitoring of political adverts has obvious conflict-of-interest issues, but it seems odd that there’s no system at all for ensuring truth in political campaigns.

This is a much-needed public service.
Ideally, with its own dedicated site, cross-referencing to others such as THE STRAIGHT CHOICE.

7. Shatterface

‘Rather than run through the usual exercise of taking the piss on a case by case basis, I thought we might try a bit of different approach in an effort to encourage political parties to be their dealings with the y-axis.’

Given that politics in this country is is usually dominated by those who position themselves on the left-right x-axis, I’d be more than happy to see more attention paid to the y-axis.

8. Shatterface

Shouldn’t it be ‘horseshit here’ though, not ‘bullshitting here’?

It’s a better parody of the original.

All parties are guilty of it.

But who is the worst?

10. Shatterface

‘But who is the worst?’

What we need is some statistics on bullshit and a graph to illustrate it.

not being funny

but i’ve seen Labour leaflets doing exactly the same thing.

two wrongs don’t make a right

but this is hardly something new, or unique to the lib dems.

It’s called “politics”, I think.

Sorry Paul but it’s called lying, not politics. Politics is a battle of ideas, not deceiving the electorate.

As it happens I’ve never seen a Labour leaflet that does this sort of thing, although I’m sure it happens, not being a Labour voter I don’t care one way or the other.

However it seems like *every* Lib Dem leaflet I ever see uses dishonest graphs. It may not be unique to the Lib Dems but you’re kidding yourself if you think it’s either normal or ok to treat voters like this. You seem very blase about the electorate being given misleading, wrong or twisted information.

I think it’s generally accepted that no party does this as frequently as the Lib Dems. Usually their excuse is that the big nasty FPTP system forces them to mislead the electorate, which is a crock of shit. However I’m sure there are examples of every party doing it at some point, and it’s always wrong and unnecessary.

It’s true that if we didn’t have first past the post then these graphs would not be relevant. All parties do this, i’ve had a dodgy Tory graph through the door.

Paul:

Although its the Lib Dem who’ve gained the strongest reputation for using dodgy graphs I’m personally making no judgements here.

I dare say all parties try this kind of thing on in the right circumstances and I’ll happily do over any graphs that come my way regardless of where they come from.

What I may do to set the ball rolling is run a sweep of a few candidate websites just to see if I can get a sample to work with, and see what emerges.

There is no y-axis at all, so…

*smug*

how do you know they haven’t used a log scale?

*ducks*

#14

I call bs. No voting system forces you to use a misleading graph. If you are genuinely in first of second place and want to make an argument about the importance of beating the other party in first/second place, that’s fair enough. But to do that, you could use, you know, an ACCURATE graph; one pertaining to the right set of elections, with the right heights etc, or just make an argument without using graphs at all.

Blaming first past the post for forcing you to mislead the electorate just makes you look silly.

Good work Unity – this sort of thing really pisses me off.

I got a letter asking me to help leaflet my street on behalf of the incumbent L-D MP – which I might otherwise be inclined to do, because I think he’s an all-round excellent guy – but there’s no way I’m going to push these blatent lies through people’s doors. Reckon I’ll write and tell the LD’s so.

Glad to see you got rid of the Orator’s clumsy efforts, good grief.

Lib Dem’s do it with graphs, certainly, and I am sure other parties do it to some degree too. But ALL parties use the same underlying bullshit argument which is the “This party CAN’T win here” idiocy.

TBH, the one thing I hate more than misleading graphs in terms of being disproportionate are graphs that only actually include two parties and leave the third out completely (as they are so insignificant, obviously). These people claiming there are only two people in the race and then don’t put down the number of votes, or the percentage share, or even a misleading bar on the end of the chart…they’re doing it worse.

The Lib Dems actually do better with FPTP elections than PR ones. Why? Because over the years they’ve honed the whole “two horse race” thing to the extent that it’s what gets them FPTP wins, but has made them useless in the kind of value-laden campaigning needed for PR elections where all votes count and you have to appeal to people to vote for what they believe in regardless of “who can/can’t win here” because everyone can win in PR.

I’ve seen some Tory lying graphs, almost all Lib Dems do it, no Labour and no Greens (in my own personal experience). Obviously the BNP and UKIP lie a lot on theirs, usually not with graphs – they’re probably too thick for that.

Perhaps the reason the Lib Dems have expanded their MPs when the smaller parties have not, is because they’re so good at the two-horse race trick in FPTP elections.

http://tinyurl.com/yfe5bq3 The LibDem dodgy stats in practice in Swansea

Blame Brussels for these tacky graphs!

24. WhatNext?!

@23
Why blame Brussels?

25. Emma Dixon

Thanks for great post! Now that we have one green councillor (Katie Dawson), and are getting 20% or more of the vote in Islington, we in Islington Green Party are suffering from this Lib Dem dishonesty too. See: http://greenhighbury.blogspot.com/2010/03/graph-fix.html.

In order to be even-handed I would just add that I’ve also seen an utterly outrageous example from Emily Thornberry MP (incumbent of the closest Labour/Lib Dem marginal in the country) with a graph purporting to show the Tories running a close second in her constituency when in fact they are a very, very poor third. I think the way she’s done it is by using the Ken/Boris mayoral vote!!!


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Unity

    RT @libcon: Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/9Z3wRM

  2. Christopher Love

    RT @libcon: Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/9Z3wRM

  3. Dave Cross

    RT @libcon: Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/9Z3wRM [Lib Dems less than honest with statistics]

  4. sianberry

    Hurray the geeks – keeping us all honest! RT @Jim_Jepps Great stuff RT @libcon: Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/b3USpV

  5. The Pavement

    RT @libcon: Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/9Z3wRM

  6. Mark Taylor

    Election 2010 โ€“ Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/9IAycq

  7. RupertRead

    RT @sianberry: Hurray the geeks – keeping us all honest! RT @libcon: Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/b3USpV

  8. camdenfb

    Camden Lib Dems caught out: http://cot.ag/9jd62i #fb

  9. Adam Bienkov

    RT @libcon Election 2010 โ€“ Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/9YaSAd

  10. Sarah Slade

    @libcon on Graph abuse http://bit.ly/cBEvVn < – We had a very similar leaflet from the LibDems in Peckham

  11. The Straight Choice

    RT @libcon Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/9Z3wRM <— we approve ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Duncan Parkes

    RT @thesc: RT @libcon Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/9Z3wRM <— we approve ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. rec53

    RT @thesc: RT @libcon Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/9Z3wRM <— we approve ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Liberal Conspiracy

    Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/9Z3wRM

  15. Jim Jepps

    Great stuff RT @libcon: Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/b3USpV

  16. topsy_top20k

    Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/9Z3wRM

  17. Kate Joester

    RT @Jim_Jepps Great stuff RT @libcon: Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/b3USpV

  18. Luke Walter

    RT @libcon: Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/b3USpV

  19. Penny Thomas

    RT @libcon: Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/b3USpV

  20. Camden Green Party

    Camden Lib Dems caught out: http://cot.ag/9jd62i

  21. natalieben

    RT @camdenGP: Camden Lib Dems caught out: http://cot.ag/9jd62i

  22. Colm Quinn

    RT @libcon: Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/9Z3wRM

  23. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by libcon: Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/9Z3wRM

  24. Lianne de Mello

    RT @libcon: Election 2010 – Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/b3USpV << Brilliant!!!

  25. Chris Cook

    @edstaite Alas, @CamdenJo's leaflets are not quite proportional… http://bit.ly/aX9OPv

  26. Gordon Hodgson

    Lib Dems Like to Lie, Often: Liberal Conspiracy ยป Election 2010 โ€“ Tackling Graph Abuse http://bit.ly/9GVTz9





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