Light entertainment: a self-referencing chart
Nothing is as simple as it seems

Worst statistical graphic nominated

Phil, over at the Gelman blog, nominates this jaw-dropping graphic as the worst of the year. I have to agree:


Should we complain about the "pie chart"/4 quadrants representation with no reference to the underlying data? Or the "pie within a pie within a pie" invention, again defiantly not to scale? Or the creative liense to exaggerate the smallest numbers in the chart ($2 billion, $0.3 billion) making it disproportionate with the other pieces? Or the complete usurping of proportions (e.g. the $0.2 billion green strip on the top right quadrant compared to the $0.3 billion tiny blue arc on the top left quadrant)?

Or the random sprinkling of labels and numbers around the circle even though if one takes the time, one notices that the entire chart contains only 8 numbers, as follows:



Instead, we can display the data with a small multiples layout showing readers how the data is structured along two dimensions.


Or a profile chart may also work:





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steve byers

Am I missing something? Isn't the most eggregious aspect of this the equating of $72.5B to $$29B by making them equal halves of the pie?


The "$0.2B" in the upper right quadrant that you refer to is actually a "$6.2B".


J: But... assuming that data is encoded as areas in a pie chart, then the green strip is indeed $0.2B because $6.2B - $6.0B = $0.2B!


I don't think that's how the chart is meant to be read. The $6.2B and $6.0B chunks represent direct spending and tax breaks, respectively, spent on Traditional Renewables, adding up to the $12.2B you see in the top right quadrant.

All of this being said, I completely agree that this chart is designed in pretty much the worst way possible.


Oops, had it backwards, the $6.2B is tax breaks and $6.0B is direct spending.


Wow. Plain pie charts are bad, but this goes waaaay beyond that. Data visualization should make information accessible, not misrepresent and confuse. +1 for worst graph of the year.


First time I saw that big tax in a pie chart.

Milo Schield

This is the worst graph I've seen in 2011. But using a line graph in your suggested profiles chart seems inappropriate. Using separated bars would indicate that the four categories are separate whereas the connecting lines imply there are some things/values in between.


what is the source of this chart?

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