An article in today’s Guardian claims that 220 potential MPs have pledged to attend a workshop on how to interpret statistics in public life. Makes a lot of sense.
Politicians’ misunderstanding of statistics is illustrated by reference to a test conducted by the Royal Statistical Society, reported (article has since been updated) as:
…97 MPs were asked the maths question: “If you spin a coin twice, what is the probability of getting two heads?”
The answer is, of course, 25%. However, only 47% of Conservatives and 77% of Labour MPs got this right. This is despite over three-quarters of Conservatives saying they felt confident dealing with numbers.
However, the source of this information is a BBC article that states:
A total of 97 MPs were asked this probability problem: if you spin a coin twice, what is the probability of getting two heads?
Among Conservative members, 47% gave the wrong answer, which is disappointing enough. But of the 44 Labour MPs who took part, 77% answered incorrectly.
Whoops. Turns out that the Guardian, a left-leaning newspaper, is overstating the statistical prowess of Labour MPs. Clearly just a mistake, but an embarrassing one in an article about interpreting statistical information.
Here’s a screenshot of the original article.