Follow the data, responsibly

It is not unusual for papers to cite statistics from surveys, (most recently 11/18/20 Record-Eagle article survey results in on Front Street closure, summer modifications) research studies, polls, etc. Same for TV and radio reporters. Often percentages are reported (e.g.) as 52 percent of Group A believe the city should pave a road and 48 percent say no to paving a road. The reader could believe the higher percent means that people favor paving the road and community leaders may spend money on paving the road. That conclusion is not necessarily correct.

Before drawing conclusions the audience should know: a.) sample size of the overall study and reported subsamples, b.) if differences in the percentages were statistically significant, c.) the margin of error d.) if the study was quantitative or qualitative. Are there any standards that have been established by knowledgeable sources to assist all media reporters on how to accurately report statistics so that the reader is left with an accurate conclusion?

If these standards do not formerly exist, now might be the time to develop them. Why? Because people develop opinions, philosophies that impact individuals and leaders make decisions on policies and fiscal expenditures.

Terry Stellingworth

Suttons Bay

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