Posts Tagged statistics

Bad News: Are Kids Turning Their Backs On Sports?

The following is taken in part from Episode 46 of our podcast ‘Skeptics with a K’, give or take the odd addition.

A generation of children ‘turn their backs on sport’ – so said the BBC recently. And they weren’t alone, with similar stories gracing the pages of the Daily Mail, The Independent and pretty much every other media outlet going. But I’ll focus on the BBC, because I respect them most. Moving on with the story:

A generation of British children are turning their backs on sport and physical activity, a survey suggests.

The poll for British Triathlon and Tata Steel suggests 10% cannot ride a bike and 15% cannot swim.

Connoisseurs of my PR takedowns in the past will spot the brand names right there in paragraph two – British Triathlon and Tata Steel. The latter are a steelworking giant who sponsor the Tata Kids Of Steel – a community programme to drive kids into exercise, and in particular into the swimming, bike-riding and running that constitutes the triathlon, as promoted by British Triathlon.

Now, it’s worth pointing out at this point – just because the British Triathlon federation and its corporate sponsor Tata Steel have a vested interest in telling the world that children are no longer riding bicycles and swimming and generally triathlonning, it doesn’t mean the survey involved here is dodgy. But it does mean we should be treading a little carefully, and we should certainly be examining the claims being made perhaps a little more skeptically than if an entirely independent body were making the same claims.

As a brief aside at this point, it’s worth pointing out that the first thing I thought when I glanced over this story was ‘who are Tata Steel’ and ‘what have they got to do with sports’ – questions which were soon answered with a mild Google. These big businesses aren’t stupid, and I’d speculate that for every pound spent on this sports initiative, a corporate sponsor would see two pounds or more come back to them in either goodwill, reputational benefit, or convenient blind-eyes to some of the inevitably murkier elements of a large-scale industrial business.

Anyway, back to the BBC, and the story we’re being cautiously skeptical about, and here come the statistics Read the rest of this entry »

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Surveys On Rape And The Need For Clean Stats

Recently we asked you what really pushes your buttons and makes you angry. You may have answered, you may not – I hadn’t, and didn’t intend to… but bugger it, my spleen needs venting. So here goes – I have a couple of thing that particularly piss me off: psychics are definitely one of them. Sexuality discrimination (in either direction) is very much a second. And another biggie? Bad stats, where it matters.

Now, I appreciate it might seem like a bit of a nothingness, after all. So some numbers get inflated to make it look like men are shitty to their girlfriends, or that knife crime is on the rise, or that more than half of teenage girls are pregnant – these kind of issues might seem relatively minor, if slightly sexist, sensationalist or downright stupid. Nobody’s getting hurt here, you might think, and after all more than 33% of statistics are made up, and over half of the remaining two thirds are meaningless cliche anyway. However, consider the following headline, from Tuesday’s Metro:

One in four women has been raped, a shocking new survey reveals

I think it’s fair to say the statement that 25% of women have been raped is a shocking statement. Truly. If it were, in fact, true. But is it? Well, it’s right there in the headline, and surely nobody running those figures could do so without being 110% sure of their accuracy, and at the very least they’d make sure they were about 4/3rds positive of the interpretation? Well, a little digging around and I was able to locate a summary of the survey this stat was taken from – it was an online survey of 1061 people in London, broken down into 349 men and 712 women. There’s no indication as to how that sample of 1061 people was put together, so any discussion of the stats has to be with the caveat that any potential bias is undisclosed. Interestingly, when looked at in terms of self-defined sexuality there were only 71 homosexual, 52 bisexual and 16 asexual respondents – yet the summary merrily extrapolates the data of around four dozen bisexual respondents into statements of comparative risk Read the rest of this entry »

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