What Every High-School Graduate Should Know About Statistics
Richard L. Scheaffer University of Florida, Gainesville
Ann E. Watkins California State University, Northridge
James M. Landwehr Bells Labs--Lucent Technologies, Murray Hill, NJ
In 1993, many Americans were shocked to hear news reports of a survey that found that "twenty-two percent of Americans doubt that the Holocaust ever occurred." How could this be? How could so many doubt the occurrence of one of the most significant events of the 20th century? The answer lies in the poll, or survey, itself and in the difficulty of communicating with language, which always produces some degree of imprecision. The question asked by the Roper organization was worded as follows.
Does it seem possible or does it seem impossible to you that the Nazi extermination of the Jews never happened?
Among the respondents, 22% said "it seemed possible" and another 12% said they did not know. Only 65% said it was "impossible it never happened." The double negative in the question, it seems, confused the respondents. Picking up on this point, the Gallup organization conducted a follow-up poll that asked the question more clearly.
The term Holocaust usually refers to the killing of millions of Jews in Nazi death camps during World War II. In your opinion, did the Holocaust: definitely happen, probably happen, probably not happen, or definitely not happen?
Among the respondents to this poll, 83% said the Holocaust definitely happened and another 13% said it probably happened. Only 1% said it definitely did not happen. Quite a difference! Gallup also asked the Roper question
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Reflections on Statistics:Learning, Teaching, and Assessment in Grades K-12. Contributors: Susanne P. Lajoie - Editor. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Mahwah, NJ. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 3.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.