Statistical confusion of olympian proportions
Now the Commonwealth games has finished in Delhi, we are allowed to look forward to the Olympics coming to town in 2 years time. Not my town though, another little town (called London) just down the road. And to mark this, ticket prices have been announced for the various events. These announcements were made amongst much fanfare and press coverage. For my part, I got this email which told me about the various price brackets for the tickets.
It left me shocked. Not because I clicked through to find out that a ticket for the 100m final would cost £750, but because of the utterly bizarre approach to presenting the figures.
Usually statistics and numbers are presented in the same format (numbers, fractions, percentages etc) so they can be easily compared. In this email though, the mixture of formats mean that, without doing a bit of maths, this kind of comparison is nearly impossible.
So, after a bit of maths, I worked out that the actual allocations are:
- 10% of tickets £101 or more
- 24% of tickets between £51 and £100
- 38% of tickets between £21 and £50
- 28% of tickets £20 or less
Working these numbers out suggests why they took the approach they did, the real numbers themselves aren’t very sexy: 28% doesn’t have the same ring as 2.5 million does it? In a way I can see what they’re trying to do: get some nice memorable numbers out there, but they only really succeed as soundbites:
“90% of tickets £100 or less”
sounds great, particularly for a day of world-class sport, but only on its own. As soon as it appears with the other statements it causes confusion.
So, does this lack of sexy numbers really justify presenting information in such a confusing way – I don’t think so?