“2,039 Millionaires!”

I saw that on a billboard advertising the state lottery.

This is a good example of a true, but misleading statistic. The lottery’s ad company used it because it’s compelling.

In our feeble minds, we think, ‘wow, 2,039, that’s a lot…why couldn’t that be me?” Of course, that’s exactly what the marketing company hopes you think.

It’s easy for us to get our heads around 2,039. It’s a number we deal with often. We know it’s a lot, but it’s not so much that we can’t picture it. It’s a few sections of an arena at a concert. We probably didn’t know the lottery had created that many millionaires.

It is a wonderful use of stats to sway opinion.

It wasn’t lost on me that this is the same way stats are used to sway public opinion on other things, like this Newsweek article that cites the number of people killed by police officers since Mike Brown: 2,506.

While both of these stats are true, the way they are used is misleading and there are more pertinent facts.

The more pertinent fact for the lottery is your chances of becoming a millionaire by playing it. That’s much less compelling.

2 thoughts on ““2,039 Millionaires!”

  1. Pingback: Numbers without context or bad context = propaganda, marketing or con job | Our Dinner Table

  2. Pingback: The news is outliers | Our Dinner Table


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