Friday, November 7, 2014

Where in the heck did this data really come from?

Back on October 21st Chapman University put up a web page titled What Americans Fear the Most, that contained the vertical bar chart with top five concerns and worries about government and environmental policy I’ve shown above. (At first they showed it twice, but soon fixed that after I commented on it). A caption at the bottom claims that it shows percentages for either “Very Concerned” or Very Worried.”

Those percentages should match the data pointed to by a blue link box titled Complete Survey Results that are on the main page titled The Chapman University Survey on American Fears. In my horizontal bar chart shown above (click on it for a larger version) their mostly sky-high percentages are shown in blue, and the data indicated by their caption are shown in red. Four of the five percentages are much higher, and even the fifth doesn’t quite match. For Government corruption the 67.3% they show exactly matches the cumulative percentage shown on page 42 for Very Worried (39.5%) plus Worried (24.8%) plus Refused (3.0%). It is not obvious to me where the other four percentages came from. I commented on the web page the day after they posted their chart, but so far they haven’t replied. On October 29th the UK Progressive reposted that bogus vertical bar chart.         

There also is a conceptual problem with their comparison of answers from two different questions. One question was:

Thinking about the Federal Government in Washington D.C., how worried are [you] about the following?

Corrupt Government Officials [see page 42 for data]
The Affordable Health Care Act, also called Obamacare
with possible replies of:

Very Worried
Somewhat Worried
Not Worried At All

The other question was:

Please indicate the extent to which you feel concerned about each of the following environmental issues.

Industrial pollution of rivers and streams [see page 33 for data]
Pollution of drinking water
Soil and water contamination from toxic waste [see page 34 for data]

with possible replies of:

Very Concerned
Somewhat Concerned
Not at All Concerned

Worried and concerned are not precisely synonyms. I interpret Concerned as possibly being a broader concept than Worried - one that also would include just being Interested, as shown above via a Venn diagram.

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