Picking apart the Daily Mail’s ‘Statistics’Posted: 23 September 2011
This Morning the Daily Mail has published an article ‘proving’ that the UK is opposed to same-sex marriage. Unsurprisingly, this has but a bee in my bonnet, and I’ve spent some time picking their claims apart. I’ve now posted my findings as a comment on the article. I don’t hold my breath at it getting through their moderation, so it here it is for all to see and share far and wide.
I also ran out of characters for the comments, so have posted an abbreviated version and signposted anyone who reads it here to see the full thing.
This article is utterly disingenuous and is sloppy, biased journalism at it’s very worst. Unlike the article’s author, I am choosing to base my response on well researched facts:
- It is clearly poor journalism to state that the government released a report, but not to name or properly cite the report. For all those who wish to look at the actual source material, it is ‘Civil Partnerships – Five Years On’ and can be found here.
- While it is true to say the report by the ONS was published yesterday, it is disingenuous to suggest that the statistics are current. The British Social Attitudes survey mentioned is from 2008, and the European Barometer statistic is from 2006 (as we can see in the full ONS report).
- The main figure quoted in the article (45% in favour of gay marriage, therefore a majority are opposed to it) is from the European Barometer in 2006. Looking at the raw figures in the full Barometer report (see here, page 80) shows that in the UK, the statement ‘Homosexual marriage should be allowed throughout Europe’ elicited the following respones: Totally agree 18%; Tend to agree 28%; Tend to disagree 15%; Totally disagree 30%; Don’t know 9%. This means, if we add the figures up, that 46% agreed, 45% disagreed and 9% didn’t know. In other words, more agreed than disagreed, so the survey actually shows a majority in favour.
Clearly this article is highly inaccurate, but I won’t be holding my breath for a correction.
I’ve just put in a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission as well, as the article clearly breaches Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code (‘The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.’) Please take the time to make a complaint as well, if you can. I’ve included my response to the PCC for ease:
The article includes an inaccurate statistic and makes an inaccurate assumption about it, with the effect of making it seem that a majority of Britons oppose same-sex marriage, when the statistical source mentioned in fact shows the opposite.
The figure quoted in the article (‘only 45 per cent of British people agree that ‘homosexual marriages should be allowed throughout Europe’) is incorrect. The report from which this statistic is taken shows that in fact 46% agree that ‘homosexual marriages should be allowed throughout Europe’. (Please see http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb66/eb66_highlights_en.pdf, page 80 for the full statistical breakdown).
Furthermore, this figure is used to allege (particularly in the article’s headline as well as throughout the article itself), that a majority of British people oppose same-sex marriage. The same page of the source research shows that the results amongst British people were as follows:
Totally Agree: 18%
Tend to Agree: 28%
Tend to Disagree: 15%
Totally Disagree: 30%
Don’t Know: 9%
These figures clearly show that more people agree that it should be allowed than disagree (46% agree; 45% disagree). This clearly breaches clause 1 of the Editors’ code as it is inaccurate, misleading and distorted.