You fool! Don’t you know that you’re supposed to start the y-axis at 97,000,000, not 94,000,000??

by Andrew Gelman on August 9, 2012 · 4 comments

in Media

Jeff points me to this:

Actually, my problem is not so much the Fox graphics team’s continuing ridiculous choices of lower bounds (particularly inappropriate when the data are presented as a set of bars rather than as a line) but rather that the starting point is so recent. Why not provide a bit of perspective and go back a few years or even a couple of decades?


Cornelius August 9, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Good post! This bar chart is completely laughable: surely automatic stabilizers kick in during recessions.

Truthiness is not truth August 11, 2012 at 9:58 am

But we’ve been in recovery for most of the period of that chart. Shouldn’t the automatic stabilizers be reducing the numbers ‘served’ in recovery? I know we’re in a recovery because Joe Biden told me so.

Although the overall point of the post is valuable, and would be even more so if it were more even-handed, showed similar examples of politically driven graphics from msnbc, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, NYT, etc.

Emily August 10, 2012 at 10:11 am

It’s also just not welfare (TANF), it’s food stamps and other aid programs that are probably more popular/less stigmatized than welfare. They sort of get at that by saying “some form of federal welfare,” but I doubt most people who watch this are going to pick up on that distinction.
There is actually an interesting story here if you go back earlier: the increase in the proportion of means-tested aid that’s in the form of food stamps (SNAP) and a decrease in the proportion that’s given in terms of TANF. It’s my sense that this has happened to a significant degree post-welfare reform, and that it’s probably both diluted the effects of it and contributed to the sky-high effective marginal tax rates for the working poor. I don’t expect to see coverage of this on FOX.

Jeff August 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm

“Why not…?” I think we know why. How else would one expose the Not-One-Of-Us Welfare President?

Correct data presentation would not have the same desired bias.

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