Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An Almanac PSA: 50% for dummies

Today the Almanac reaches out to our friends over at the Bill White Texas Tribune, offering up this handy dandy resource guide for calculating "half".

2 Things:

1. (2010: Perry On "Worst" List, Reeve Hamilton, Texas Tribune)
Liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is based in DC, does not think very highly of Republican Gov. Rick Perry.
That's some mighty fine identification going on right there. Good job Mr. Hamilton.*

2. (TribBlog: Half of Texans Support Suing Over HC Reform, Emily Ramshaw, Texas Tribune)
The latest Rasmussen poll reports 56 percent of likely Texas voters support suing the federal government to stop health care reform from becoming law.
Ooops. Last I checked 56% wasn't half. As a matter of fact (statistically speaking) it's not all that close to half.

In a "yes/no" situation 56% is a full 12% win. In case you're wondering 12% is almost 25% of 50, which is half, or 50%, which (as noted here) is NOT 56%. And while it's fairly close numerically to half that doesn't mean that it's within the margin of error. In a political race getting 56% of the vote wins every time. A politicians winning by 12% points would be considered to have won by a sizable margin.

Therefore, in order to help the Bill White Texas Tribune with "half" we offer up this simple reminder.....

Two stories: 1 with good identification and 1 with bad. That means that 1 our of 2 (or 1/2) of the stories out of the sample were "good". That's half. It also means that 1 out of 2 (or 1/2, or half) of the stories in the sample set were "bad". So, from that angle, it's not very good at all.

Like most statistics how you interpret these depends largely on your POV. In baseball, for instance, batting .500 (or getting a hit in 'half' your at-bats) over the span of a career would get you into the Hall of Fame and cement your status as the greatest hitter of all time. In football however, a .500 winning percentage will get your coach and several players fired....unless you're referring to a team owned by Bob McNair. In journalism, being accurate 50% of the time would have meant instant termination in the old days where even typos were counted against you. Today however it places you at, or near, the top of the class in Texas Journalism.

By today's standards that ain't half-bad, but historically speaking it's not half-good either.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog, already in progress.....

.....omething about Dan Patrick, Paul Bettancourt and a mysterious order of bumper stickers reading "to thine right."

*Left unsaid is that Perry will probably use something from a liberal group as a POSITIVE going forward in his campaign. That's plausible in Texas, where Republicans still have the advantage.

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