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"Faking charts can take as much effort as making accurate ones."

Based on this walk-through, I would say it takes decidedly more effort to fake it!

Erik Terner

Why would they want to fake it?
Do you really believe ABC is shilling for Trump?


Rather than faking it, they are probably driven by a need to make the chart look right. Making the lengths correct would either require small text or a wide chart with lots of white space. After all, including the numbers fairly much gives the game away.


I don't know. In my experience, Hanlon's razor of "never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity" [1] is a very good guide for real life.

I think what really happened here is that the designer was desperately trying to find a way to display the names overlaying the bars in a way that they area readable even on old NTSC TV sets. So what he did is, he took your original bars and then just clipped and clinched them horizontally such that they only take up half of the screen to give enough space for the names. And then, to make it look good, he used the white bars as background for the names on the left hand side. This is also why he chose the confusing color scheme: With red bars (instead of red "emptiness") the names would probably become illegible on old TV sets.

I made you an illustration:

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon%27s_razor


Alex: Interesting idea that they may have chopped off both ends. Note that I did not attribute any malice on the ABC designer - I have no claim on knowing why they did what they did, and deliberately chose to present this as a general comment on how to fake charts. So you can say I used Hanlon's razor.
More generally, I don't know how one can square Hanlon's razor with plausible deniability which is widely practiced. The same thing with manipulation of college rankings that I discussed in the book. There are lots of ways to nudge the statistics replete with normalizing explanations for those acts. One quick example: many schools switched to "Common App" saying that this levels the playing field - a clear effect of this is to increase drastically the number of applications received, which directly improves selectivity rate.

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Marketing analytics and data visualization expert. Author and Speaker. Currently at Columbia. See my full bio.

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