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Even More Fun with Numbers August 18, 2006

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Over at the Journal one of my favorite columnists, Carl Bialik, “the Numbers Guy,” correctly rips some some survey-based “findings,” including an especially dubious claim by the wine industry trade group about teens buying booze online.

As a guy who gets paid to make up this kind of stuff analyze surveys, I’ve got to say Bialik seems a little too harsh on Teenage Research Unlimited. They’ve always done good work as far as I’ve seen (Jupiter has no relation with TRU that I know of). Bialik obsesses over the representativeness of an online panel. First of all, over 77% of US teens are online anyway, and Bialik doesn’t even do a back of the envelope extrapolation that reflects this. But the main point is:

    I asked Michael Wood, a vice president at Teenage Research who worked on the survey, whether one could say, as the liquor trade group did, that millions of teenagers had bought alcohol online. “You can’t,” he replied, adding, “This is their press release.”

Now that’s what you can criticize TRU for, not for the survey. Jupiter wouldn’t let a client or sponsor pervert the findings of one of our surveys in a press release. Heck, we do that ourself.

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