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“Trump Second Most Admired Man In America,” Says The Headline

Ah, that’s the thing about numbers. We so rarely analyse them. And when we don’t even read the article, the headline can leave us with a totally wrong impression.

For example, I remember a few years ago, before the election of Tony Abbott a headline blared at us that John Howard was the most popular PM of the previous twenty years. Sounded like Howard had done well, until you stopped and looked at the poll figures. While Howard had scored in the low thirties and the highest of anyone else was twenty-something, the figure was appalling low when you looked at the PMs he was competing against: Hawke, Keating, Rudd, Gillard. Now, in case you haven’t twigged, these were all Labor. While Labor supporters would have been spilt between the four, Howard’s figure meant that not even all the people who normally voted Liberal gave him the tick as the best.

So, when I saw the headline, “President Trump Is The Second-Most Admired Man in America, Gallop Poll Finds”, my initial thought was to wonder if his great success in reducing taxes for the rich and killing Obamcare had given him a sudden boost because Americans hate anything that can be considered socialist. You know, things like saving them when they can’t afford hospital treatment, or forcing the Wall Street traders who were bailed out in the GFC to pay some of it back in tax.

Well, I could have left it at that, but I decided to read the article. Now, it may have been more refelective of what the poll showed if the headline had been, “Obama still the most popular man in America” or even “Hillary not the most popular man in America because she’s a woman”. Hillary was in a different category because like the Oscars, there was a most popular man and most popular woman. Which leads to the obvious question: If Hillary had been elected president, would the headline have been, “President not the most popular man in America for the first time since 2008”, which interestingly enough, could have been the headline anyway.

Trump received fourteen percent of the vote, so not even all those who voted for him in 2016 found him most admirable. Strange then that the article was given a headline with such a positive spin.

But then politics is all about the spin, isn’t it? Take the announcements that we were $23 billion “better off” because the government’s debt wasn’t going to be as high as they predicted. This is the equivalent of announcing that I’m three thousand better off after Christmas because my credit card had a ten thousand dollar limit and I only spent seven thousand. (That is a hypothetical, in case my wife is reading the article.) 

And lately we’ve had claims from the Coalition that they’re delivering on jobs and growth. It used to be a slogan, Malcolm told us, but now they’re delivering. A slogan? Didn’t Malcolm promise no slogans? 383,000 jobs in the last twelve months. Not only that, Malcolm told us, but the unemployment rate of 5.4% hasn’t been seen since early 2013. Mm, wasn’t that three or four Prime Ministers ago? You know, when Labor were in office? So after four years of carefully doing nothing but promising us jobs and growth, they’ve managed to get back to where we were just after the GFC. Awesome!

I think that it is worth pointing out that while we’ve have 383,000 new jobs created, we also need to look at a couple of other things. For example, where are these jobs being created? As the car industry shuts its doors and banks start laying people off, it’s not simply a case of creating a new job to replace it. Is the job comparable? If Artificial Intelligence can reduce the number of lawyers we need, does creating a demand for more retail workers really help with the country’s GDP? No, I’m not hostile to retail workers and let’s be real, AI and Amazon will probably reduce the number of retail workers needed too. I’m just saying that it’s not enough to simply say as we’ve created x number of jobs then things are going okay. (Interesting that governments always claim the credit for jobs that are created, but never take the blame when jobs are being lost.)

Now, I’m not about to join PHON here, but it is worth noting that In 2015-16, net overseas migration was 182,165 people. There are a whole lot of good economic arguments that migration can be good for growth and whole lot of good arguments that Australia may need to consider the effects on the environment and infrastructure when considering migration numbers, but let’s just leave all that to one side and just use this number with all the carefree abandon of a politician. 182,165 people! Why that’s more than half of the jobs created? Aren’t these people, simultaneously taking our jobs and going onto to welfare because they can’t get work because of their poor English skills? Something like that. Please see Peter Dutton for clarification… (Now there’s a sentence I’ll bet nobody even used before.)

Anyway, as the abandonment of net neutrality means that more and more, the articles you read will be the ones that big companies who pay, are the ones pushed to the top of your searches, all I can do is suggest that any time people start using numbers you think about them carefully. After all, 90% of all statistics are given a misleading spin; the other half are just made up.


7 comments

  1. Kronomex

    Sturgeon’s Revelation: “90% of everything is crud (although “crap” sounds better).”

  2. Andrew Smith

    No disrespect, but talking of numbers…. Australians have sub-optimal data literacy, including politicians, advisors and MPs (who are actively targeted):

    ‘..net overseas migration was 182,165 people. There are a whole lot of good economic arguments that migration can be good for growth and whole lot of good arguments that Australia may need to consider the effects on the environment and infrastructure when considering migration numbers, but let’s just leave all that to one side and just use this number with all the carefree abandon of a politician. 182,165 people!’

    There have been constant misunderstandings and too often misrepresentation of NOM net overseas migration (ditto real estate where property prices have actually stagnated if representing value); mostly capturing international students who do not have full time work rights and pay full fees (majority don’t drive cars, don’t buy property and leave after study; it’s ‘churnover’ impacting headline numbers).

    The definition was expanded in 2006 by the UN Population Council to include international students and other temporaries (457s, backpackers, long term tourists/visitors, NZ’ers and dependents); suspiciously no one was really informed e.g. in Australia it was ‘Australia’s best demographer’, Sustainable Australia, Andrew Bolt et al. who promote the numbers often.

    However, it works as a cop out for many Australians who can blame ‘immigrants’ for their own lazy ‘unsustainable’ fossil fuel use i.e. mostly round car usage; cognitive dissonance. Population growth is becoming dominated by an ageing population due to low child mortality, better health and longevity; this will start changing in less than ten years when the big ‘baby boomer’ die off commences….

    Statistician, medico and development expert Prof. Hans Rosling presented well (he passed way earlier in the year and was Paul ‘Population Bomb’ Ehrlich’s nemesis) https://www.gapminder.org/videos/dont-panic-the-facts-about-population/

    Of course it’s no coincidence that the ‘sustainability’, zero population and zero economic growth movements have been round since Malthus, Ricardo, Smith et al. then Darwin’s cousin Galton (eugenics), supported and carried on by the old ‘oilgarchs’ i.e. Rockefeller (Standard Oil/Exxon Mobil) and Ford et al., did business with the Nazis in WWII who then learn to keep a low profile via the Club of Rome. It was development of one great astro turfed dog whistle via a conservative construct of ‘limits to growth’, ‘sustainability’ etc. to present as ‘liberal and environmental’ i.e. let fossil fuels off the hook on regulation, consumers can do individual environmental actions e.g. recycling rubbish or supporting whales, and all can blame ‘immigrants’, and the lower orders.

    The same people as behind Trump’s success, Brexit, eastern Europe and Australia (Canada and NZ have managed to avoid):

    ‘The defeat of the Nazis led to the discrediting of strongly eugenicist ideas.’ but they never went away…

    http://climateandcapitalism.com/2008/03/02/too-many-people-population-control-and-climate-change/

    There is no evidence that (undefined) ‘immigration’ has direct correlation with unemployment, wages etc.; domestic governments and voters manage to compromise workers quite well.

    ‘The suggestion that bringing 457 visa workers from overseas is coming at the expense of “local jobs” reinforces the myth that immigration causes unemployment and drives down wages.

    In fact evidence from Australia and internationally shows that immigration actually creates jobs. In his book, Immigration and the Australian Economy, William Foster’s surveys over 200 studies on immigration and wages. He found there was, “a marginally favourable effect on the aggregate unemployment rate, even in recession”.

    http://www.solidarity.net.au/mag/back/2012/48/immigration-is-not-to-blame-for-cuts-to-jobs-and-wages/

  3. Shogan

    “(Interesting that governments always claim the credit for jobs that are created, but never take the blame when jobs are being lost.)”

    The government has been bragging that they have been creating 1,000 new jobs a day, but I wonder how many of those jobs are just casuals starting a “new” job after being laid off from the last “new” job the previous week.

  4. tanginitoo

    I would like to have the ability to pass a comment about the comments left here! Why can’t it be arranged?

  5. Wam

    Memory is funny? I think I saw gerry harvey in 2010 telling a reporter that Tony Abbott is a good bloke but julia gillard is not a good bloke. Still I have gone a few years thinking rossleigh was a woman so how can I criticise ‘hardly normal’ assessment of gillard??
    Stats present facts that are always untrue or never true but are usable, as truth, in almost every argument.
    Similarly are the disingenuous nature of the headers to murdoch’s stories where often the positive labor stories have negative headers and vice versa for the lnp.
    Perhaps the real downer is the ease with which the stereotyping of racist, sexist and righteous has returned and is reinforced in ever series of replies.
    That bodes not well for Aborigines, those on welfare and the minority of men and women with their own opinions

  6. David Stakes

    Politics in this country will go to the dogs after the Baby Boomer Die off. Not all us Boomers are a selfish bunch of fuddy duddys. The generation that follows is more self serving and totally politically inept. All I can say is on your own head be it.

  7. Zathras

    I remember Gerry Harvey too. Back in 2008 he said that giving money to help the poor was money wasted.

    “It might be a callous way of putting it but what are they doing? You are helping a whole heap of no-hopers to survive for no good reason. They are just a drag on the whole community”.

    He also said “I still have a fear about going broke. I always think about it.”
    Many of his one-time customers are way ahead of him, particularly those he signed up to easy finance to buy his stuff.

    When it comes to statistics – if you stand with one foot on hot coals and the other in a bucket of ice then on average you are very comfortable.

    According to the polls there must be a lot of people in Australia feeling very comfortable indeed.

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