Monday, February 14, 2011

USA Today has some bad graphs but at least it's not the New York Times

The following quote was included in one of Andrew Gelman's recent posts:
Is this the worst infographic ever to appear in NYT? USA Today is not something to aspire to.
This strikes me as deeply unfair to USA Today. The paper has certainly run its share of bad graphs but these take things to a new level. It is as if the NYT used illustrations from "How to Lie with Statistics" as a starting point and then tried to top them.

Here's the "View of the U.S." where the lower the icon is, the higher its approval.

And here's the "U.S. Pakistan Policy" where the scrolls are arranged so you can't really compare their sizes (I initially thought they were going for some depth effect).

And here's the "Greatest Threat" which takes Huff's height/volume examples to the next level by using images of different shapes and densities.

Finally there's this amazing piece of work:

Just glancing at this you would probably conclude that the amount of blue in the circles corresponds to percentage in agreement. For example, looking at the middle circle you'd assume that almost all of those surveyed were in disagreement. You'd be wrong. More agreed than disagreed. (This was also noted by one of the commenters on Gelman's site.)

While they don't quite match this, these graphs may be the worst we've seen from a major paper in recent memory.

[adapted in part from a comment I left on Andrew Gelman's site]

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