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When Numbers Lie – Job Growth, Economy, and Voter Polling

November 2, 2012

“The Numbers Never Lie”!?!

Most people have at one time or another heard someone say that “It’s in the numbers” or “The numbers never lie.”  This often refers to a business situation where the numbers are given as absolute proof of success or failure.

Today the numbers were released on job growth over the last month.  According to MSNBC, the US economy created 171,000 jobs in October and unemployment dropped to 7.9 percent.  If you look at these numbers by themselves, you might be tempted to believe the President’s claim that our economy is headed the right direction.  However, I believe that these numbers can be easily explained, and in this case, the numbers seem to lie.

How do the job creation numbers lie about our economy?

I believe that there are two factors leading contributing to this month’s job growth.

First, holiday hiring has been in place at many retail store.  Here in central Pennsylvania, Walmart, J.C. Penny’s, and Sears have all been looking for seasonal help for over a six weeks.  This is a yearly trend, and is being used to prop up the President’s glowing claims of success.

Second, much of the east coast of the United States just went through a major storm, known as Hurricane Sandy.  The utility companies were hiring and bringing in extra help for the storm even before the storm hit.  This would have added jobs to our economy as the month ended.

How do the numbers lie about voters and our election?

This phenomenon is a little harder to explain.  Depending on the polls you believe, Mitt Romney could be ahead of Barack Obama by as much as 10 points, or he could be behind by almost as much.  Clearly, there is some sort of discrepancy between the different polls.

There are many ways that a poll can be skewed in favor of one person or issue.  One of the most common one is accomplished simply by using wording to carefully favor the issue or person you wish to promote.  Another is by using either a small sampling, or sampling only as certain portion of a geographic area.

For instance, if you ask people if dogs are a nuisance in downtown Pittsburgh, you might get a very different answer than if you ask people the same question a mere fifteen miles out of Pittsburgh.  Yet you could ask people only in the country, or only in the city, and say that the answers you got were representative of the region.

This is a common practice, and can be used to make it look like the majority supports nearly anything.  If you go by the current polls, you may find yourself  being confused or mislead.

While it is a little late to be starting, there is still time to find voter guides, research your ballot, and research the candidates on your ballot.

I hope you are planning to vote.  I hope you plan to be informed when you go to the polls.  If you need help getting started, here are a couple links that can be helpful.

Find out who is on your ballot by zip code here

Find a comparison of Mitt Romney’s and Barack Obama’s stances on major issues here

Find a comparison of Pennsylvania Senate candidates Tom Smith and Bob Casey on many issues here

Be prepared, plan time into your day, and vote.  Election day is November 6, only 4 days away.

Thanks for taking the time to ponder my thoughts,

Dave

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