If a picture paints a thousand words, then this post has more than 2,000 words
We are big fans of how visual evidence can take very complicated ideas and make them easy to grasp by allowing those who are puzzled to “see” the complex big picture. Recently, we saw two really good examples of how to take complex issues and make them simple enough for the layperson to grasp. Both examples are from the political realm and both are based on easily fact-checked data. But the questions they answer come from a lot of data that would be very difficult to make sense of without these images.
1. Who chose these presidential candidates?
Here’s one from the New York Times that was posted on a infographic site (FlowingData.com/). As it happens, only 9% of Americans chose Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as our two main political party candidates. For an interactive look at how you can “see” which 9% gave us these two candidates, visit the New York Times site for an interactive version of the graph. This is a very cool and very understandable way to allow viewers to understand what is a very complicated concept! As you read it, consider how it might apply to the ways your jurors need to grasp complex ideas.
2. Which politicians lie more?
PolitiFact is an independent fact-checking website. They pay attention to what politicians say and then tell us whether what they say is true to some degree, or sort of lying, lying, or must have their pants on fire (known to be demonstrably false). They illustrate political statements with their trademarked truth-o-meter graphic.
Enter Robert Mann whose work was featured over at DataViz (described as a site to get you excited about data–one graphic image at a time). Mann took a compilation of more than 50 statements made since 2007 by well-known politicians and (using the Politifact ratings) put all of the statements into a comprehensive chart to show us who lies more.
When some commenters questioned the accuracy of his graph and wondered just which Politifact analyses were used, a colleague of his (Jim Taylor) stepped up to say why Mann was accurate and to explain how to fact check the fact checkers–which, thanks to the internet, is a pretty straightforward thing to do these days. Additionally, Mann himself has issued an explanation for the data behind this graph which specifically explains how he chose whom to include and whether he “cherry-picked” statements (that would be a no).
From a litigation advocacy perspective, if you can get graphics that tell as much of a story as these visuals do, you go a long way toward juror persuasion. Our next post will be an example of bad data visualization, because while terrific examples like the ones in this post are more rare—there are plenty of losers out there.