The use and abuse of data graphics in politics

Attila Bátorfy

ELTE Department of Communication and Media Studies

"Any chart, no matter how well designed, will mislead us if we don't pay attention to it."

Alberto Cario

manipulative graphics are also made by people who know the rules

  • main actor

  • attribute

  • element

roles of data graphics in political communication

  • research shows data graphics can be more effective in persuading people
     

  • can give the impression that decisions are based on facts and expertise
     

  • relatively easy to establish a counter-narrative with them
     

  • can replace long, complicated arguments
     

  • because of the low graphicacy, they make easy to mislead people

why political communication uses data graphics?

visual rhetoric tool

why we lie with data graphics?

cognition

perception

praxis

visual rhetoric
biases
reasoning errors
logical fallacies

Gestalt-principles

"graphicacy"
bad traditions
bad conventions
bad design
graphic errors

The manipulation is done before the graphic is created

Many times the manipulation is not intentional, the graphic is not intended to mislead. The creator is simply unaware of what the rules are.

William Playfair
1759–1823

"the inventor of statistical graphics"

Howard Gray Funkhouser
1898–1984

Florence Nightingale's coxcomb, 1858

Francis Bicknell Carpenter, 1864

Hergesheimer and Leonhard's map on the proportion of slaves in the US bases on the census of 1860

Communist propaganda

Right wing propaganda

Truman

Reagan 

Truman

Clinton

Obama

Trump

Trump

Karim Douieb's version

Trump's misinterpretation

Alberto Cairo's explanation

Biden

FloorCharts Twitter

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simple comparisons
simple and short trends
no context
loud
missing scale
missing years
y axis cut
pictograms

suspicious clues

Thank you!

batorfy.attila@btk.elte.hu

The use and abuse of data graphics in politics

By Attila Bátorfy

The use and abuse of data graphics in politics

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