Reader Chris B. pointed us to this unfortunate chart, based on a one-question on-line poll conducted by Reader's Digest.
The data is highly structured: for each country, respondents, identified as male or female, are asked about their favorite methods to discipline their kids. (At first, I thought the "male" and "female" meant what methods they would apply to sons versus daughters but based on the summary paragraph, I now feel they refer to the genders of the respondents.)
The textual summary is extremely well-written, and successfully points to the most salient information (my italics and bolding):
Spare the rod, period. That's what parents across the globe told us when we asked how they discipline their children. Respondents in all 16 countries in this month's global survey picked a good talking-to as the best tactic for teaching a lesson, by a wide margin. Taking away a privilege placed second. Two other traditional forms of discipline-sending kids to their rooms and spanking-were the least favored choices in all but two countries. Among respondents who did favor physical punishment, men outnumbered women in every country except Canada, France, and India. Not a single woman in the United States expressed a preference for spanking.
Unfortunately, the graphical summary is a complete failure.
One feature plotting against the designer is that the general profiles of the responses are very similar between countries, and so the differences are well hidden inside this small-multiples display.
It also takes on an elongated form, making it almost impossible to compare the top two countries with the bottom two countries.
When data has such strong structure, it is a blessing to the chart designer. In the first chart, I made a set of profile charts, in small multiples. On average, parents everywhere act very similarly. There are some subtle differences: one common pattern, occurring in the Philippines, Malaysia, India, France, Brazil, etc., is the preference for a talking-to over all other methods; another pattern, applying to Netherlands, Spain, Australia, Canada, etc. is a talking-to, followed by taking away privileges with sparing use of the other two methods.
In some countries, like Australia, Brazil, Canada, Spain, Italy, etc., the gender of respondents mattered little but in the United States for instance, female respondents are more likely to prefer a talking-to while men liked using sticks.
Is it really the case that parents punish sons and daughters using the same methods? This poll seems to think so.
If we want to expose the minute differences at the level of country-gender, then something like this would do:
The purpose is to surface any outliers. I really can't say there are any here. The supposed reversion of responses by gender in India, France, and Canada is hardly worth noting since the physical punishment category is hardly used. (Reflection of reality, or response bias due to sensitive subject?)
Notice that these new charts do not have the data printed on them - the graphical elements are sufficient to show what the data is; readers are not auditors.