Ben Goldacre highlighted another case of statistics used badly in the Guardian on Saturday: the claim that Britain’s happiest places have been mapped by scientists, according to the BBC and many newspapers.
Erm, says Ben Goldacre, there’s a slight problem with that. He shows how sampling has yet again been misused by journalists. “This entire news story was based on nothing more than random variation,” he reports.
“This is called sampling error, and it quietly undermines almost every piece of survey data ever covered in any newspaper.”
When Goldacre talked to the scientist behind the research, Dr Dimitris Ballas, he said: “I tried to explain issues of significance to the journalists who interviewed me. Most did not want to know.”