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Charts matter, particularly to those of us in the economics business. But it’s sometimes a battle to convince other people.
It turns out the best way to make the case for good charts is showing a TV audience truly terrible ones. The awfulness of the presentation by the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser, before the prime minister’s national lockdown announcement last Saturday, is impossible to overstate. You couldn’t actually see the charts. Even if you could, you wouldn’t be able to understand them. If you could, you’d have no idea why there were so many. Sixteen slides in 12 minutes might make sense if your business is Covid-related performance art, but it’s madness otherwise.
Far from aiding the public’s understanding of the difficult decisions that the government faces, rapidly flicking through unintelligible charts undermines public support for collective sacrifices ahead and gives succour to irresponsible MPs opposing any restrictions.
Confusing charts also hide mistakes – the government later admitted that its claim that deaths could reach 1,500 a day by 8 December was wrong. Frustratingly, it does have a simple case to make. As Boris Johnson said on Friday, the number of people admitted to hospital is up 25% in the past week. One chart would suffice.
Clearly, decent charts come after halting the pandemic on the to-do list, but they wouldn’t hurt.
Source: The Guardian
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