Reuters' Cool Upside-Down Chart Makes 'Stand Your Ground' Look Awesome


Now here's an impressive-looking chart from Reuters that was all over the Twitterverse this weekend. Quick -- after Florida adopted "Stand Your Ground" in 2005, did gun deaths increase or decrease? Well of course they decreased, says your brain, which learned to read charts in elementary school -- look at that awesome downward slope in the numbers, because a line on a chart going down always indicates a decrease in something, which is why a slope like that in a New Yorker cartoon about Wall Street would be followed by a banker jumping out a window. And then of course you look at what the chart "actually" says, and notice that "zero" is at the top of the chart, and you realize gun deaths increased sharply -- but by now the cartoon banker has gone splat (we can always get more off a desert island cartoon).

The artist has said that she was inspired by this chart showing the number of Iraq War deaths, which uses bar graph lines to give the impression of blood dripping down the page. Of course, when you use a line graph instead of a bar graph, it doesn't look like blood, it looks like a torn window shade (from getting shot!) or something. The Iraq chart works, the Florida chart pretty much sucks, because getting cute with the conventions of charts gave a totally wrong impression of the trend she was trying to illustrate.

Happily, there have been plenty of folks on the web who were willing to Fix That For Ya, like this example from Business Insider:

This version not only clearly shows the number of gun deaths skyrocketing after "Stand Your Ground" was enacted, it also makes it much clearer that deaths were declining from the early to late 1990s, which didn't particularly stand out in the first version either.

And don't even get us started on the terrible labeling -- is this a chart of all deaths caused by shootings, or of homicides (which would exclude suicides and some accidents), or is it a chart of murder convictions, which is a really different thing? It matters a lot, since "Stand Your Ground" defenses would convert a lot of the third group into merely the second -- see also George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn.

The good news is that a chart that's this completely screwy makes news, and maybe even makes some people less likely to be fooled by bad charts (a blogger can always hope). The rotten news is that plenty of charts lie more subtly, and deliberately, than this one, which ended up terrible not out of an intent to deceive, but to be pretty, if we take Christine Chan's word for it, which, actually we don't, because Christine Chan says things like this:


Nope, nyet, nein, INCORRECT. It is not a "personal preference." Besides, as C.J. Cregg knows, there are some things you just don't put upside down in a visual representation, because you'll freak people out:

[Pacific Standard / Visualizing Data / Business Insider]

Follow Doktor Zoom on Twitter. He is also amused by what happens when you put the Americas on their side. Quack!

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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On Monday, someone attempted to murder George Soros by putting a bomb in his mailbox. Also on Monday, someone threw a rock into House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's office. Also, I spilled some hot coffee on myself. These are all things that happened on Monday, and were by some measure unpleasant. While most people might say, "Yes, all of those things are unpleasant, but they are not equal degrees of unpleasant," most people are not Chuck Schumer.

In what appears to be an attempt to get someone on Fox News to describe him as a "reasonable guy," Schumer sent out a tweet today lamenting the "despicable acts of violence and harassment" being done by "both sides."

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Republicans are KILLIN' IT in Florida, you guys! No worries about election day, Gators. It's all smooooooth sailing for the Sunshine State GOP. Just take it from Governor Rick Scott's lead pollster Wes Anderson, who produced a whimsical, unskewed poll for the campaign, featuring nostalgic jams about high Republican turnout in those good old days, telling the Tampa Bay Times,

As the linked slides indicate, Governor Scott currently leads Senator Nelson 51% to 46%, a lead that is outside of the margin of error.

It should also be noted that this sample from last week is very robust at 2,200 interviews of likely voters, stratified by county to reflect historic mid-term turnout. Our sample shows the Republicans with a one-point turnout advantage, even though we believe we will end up with a two- or three-point advantage. For historical context, in the past two mid-term elections Republicans had a four-point advantage in 2010 and a three-point advantage in 2014. At R+1, that makes our current sample a very conservative take on the likely partisan composition of this year's electorate.


No other pollster has replicated those numbers, with SurveyUSA, Quinnipiac, and CNN/SSRS all finding Bill Nelson in the lead, but if OnMessage, Inc. says Scott is running way ahead, then it must be true! Only OnMessage promises to "take your principles, your experience, and your opponent's weaknesses to develop a winning message plan that the voters will embrace." And who wouldn't trust a push pollster, right?

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