Flight of fancy

June 2, 2009

186 words
6 August 2008
The Times
Times2 2
English
(c) 2008 Times Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved

Some statistical tricks are complicated, but easy to spot; some are simple, but effective. And some are just embarrassing. Take BA’s current ad campaign. “Yesterday at T5, 89 per cent of flights arrived on time,” it says, somewhat plaintively. Which means that 11 per cent did not. Perhaps, coming from such a low base, this is a proud boast, but the advert looks sweetly flawed. Similar tactics can, however, be effective. Travelodge, which wants) us to spend our holidays in the UK, released a survey this week whose headline conclusion (repeated in four national papers) was that one British youngster in ten had never visited a beach, but 78 per cent had been abroad. Why the juxtaposition? Rephrase this as “10 per cent of British children have never been to a UK beach and 22 per cent have never been abroad” or even “90 per cent of British children have been to a UK beach, and 78 per cent have been abroad” and there is no story.

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