Friday, July 07, 2006

Checking DeVos ad claims

I wrote this on June 19 but somehow never posted it.

In their fourth "Claim Check" on the Dick DeVos advertising campaign, Wood TV 8 reports on the recent TV spot, Unemployed (video, transcript):
... the claim is made that one job is lost in the state every ten minutes since Governor Grahholm took office. According to the DeVos campaign, that would add to to nearly 160,000 jobs.
The article goes on to point out Bureau of Labor Statistics press releases on DeVos's website that purportedly support the claim. Of course, if you actually read these, you'll see that they simply summarize state and regional unemployment percentages for the last three years. And that yes, Michigan (along with Alaska) tops the list among states, unemployment-wise.

Then TV 8 cites a different table on the BLS site, which shows a lower unemployment percentage for Michigan than the reports cited by DeVos -- with the numbers showing more like 82,000 jobs lost, a significant difference. The state GOP site has yet another calculation, and of course, Gov. Granholm uses a different figure and observes that however you slice it, "the job loss lies on the doorsteps of George W. Bush and John Engler," according to this article.

I resent the number crunching by the DeVos campaign -- turning a single digit percentage (which, though huge by unemployment standards still is a small number on its own) into a "jobs lost per minute" metric in an effort to make the problem seem more immediately threatening.

I give credit to TV8 for the effort here, even though the reporting seems to me to be less probing or thoughtful than it should be. It's always good to call somebody on their use/misuse of numbers and statistics. If there's anything I've learned in my years of writing marketing communications, it's that you can make numbers say just about anything you want.


Blogger Michigan Politics said...

Whatever the true numbers, the job-loss is shocking.

4:53 PM  

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