Monday, November 10, 2014

Scary things can happen when a survey is discussed on the Web

On October 29th there was a press release at PR Newswire titled CareerBuilder Releases List of 10 Jobs American workers Fear Most that began:

“When it comes to what some of America's workers fear most, looking death in the face has nothing on public speaking, exposure to germs or enthusiastic teens. Just in time for Halloween, a fun, new CareerBuilder study shows the idea of being a stand-up comedian, kindergarten teacher or even a parent is just as chill-inducing to some people as being a stunt person, crime scene investigator or mortician.
The nationwide survey, commissioned by CareerBuilder and conducted by Harris Poll between August 11 and September 5, 2014, included 3,103 workers across industries.
Asked to choose from a list of the jobs they found the most frightful (or submit their own), workers provided the following answers – with some surprising results.”

Their top ten list was as follows:

1. Politician
2. Microbiologist for Infectious Diseases
3. Security Guard at Teen Pop Idol concert
4. Kindergarten Teacher
5. Crime Scene Investigator
6. Animal Trainer
7. Mortician
8. Radio, Cellular and Tower Equipment Installers and Repairers
9. Stand-Up Comedian
10. Parent

Note that stunt persons (who were discussed in the text) are not on that list.

They also showed the number of people who had that job, and the median hourly pay. For example, there are 56,857 politicians/legislators and they make $9.89 per hour.

At the end of the press release they had a paragraph about  the Survey Methodology which mentioned a sampling error of plus or minus 1.76 percentage points. That suggests that what they measured really was which jobs the most Americans feared, rather than the jobs Americans feared the most.

What happened when that press release got discussed on the Web?

On October 31st, over in Singapore at a web site called HumanResources the headline became The 10 scariest jobs in the world. The U.S. really is somewhat smaller than the whole world.

 On November 9th at Stunning News the headline became 8 Most Scariest Jobs Which Need More Respect Because We Need Them. Parents and Stand-Up Comedians both were thrown out. But, they claimed:

“This is according to a survey of 56,857 Americans conducted by the jobs website”

Oops. They changed the sample size to the reported number of politicians, making it over 18 times larger than reality. That’s almost as scary as watching a friend turn into a werewolf!

Back in 2008 I blogged about I saw it on the web, so it must be true. The takeaway is that you need to always go back to the original source (in this case that press release) rather than believing what someone else says.

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