Lies, damned lies, and statistics – and Modi App Survey

Former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once said: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

This is so true about Statistics, and the recent survey by Narendra Modi App on Government’s #Demonetisation decision is a classic example of how one can lie with statistics. Selective Amnesia is a virtue, big gift in Politics. Similarly selectively cherry picking few data points and jumping to conclusion is a big quality politicians must have (and which most of them possess). And Statistics is the best tool which helps them do it effectively.

Since PM Modi’s announcement to ban Rs. 500/1000 currency notes on 8th of November 2016 the entire nation is in turmoil. Even after 15 days there is tremendous disruption in the economy . And it seems the Government is feeling the heat. Hence they came up with what they do best – using Social Media tools and publicity mechanism to convey a message that “the entire nation is behind PM Modi in supporting the note ban”. So “Narendra Modi App” – a mobile app through which PM supposedly connects with the “entire nation” – conducted a survey and it was announced that 90-95% people support PM Modi on note ban.

Since the news broke the Twitter is abuzz with “” trend which is trying to expose the “damn lies” of the Survey result. The argument is simple – the survey is “managed” and not representative.

Here are few statistics: There have been ~70 lakh (7 million) downloads of “Narendra Modi App”. Of these half i.e. 35 lakh have been active users (users who access App regularly). Govt announced that total 5 lakh users responded to survey. And 92% people supported PMs decision. Let’s analyze why the Twitter is trolling the survey.

  1. People who downloaded Apps are mostly “Bhakts” or government supporters. Not a representative population of “entire nation”
  2. Of them only 5 lakh (7%) responded. So even “Bhakts” didn’t come out in support of their Boss. Probably that reveals the fake app users
  3. What’s most glaring is how the survey was loaded to lead to only one outcome. There was no option of “No” in responding to the survey. See below

Modi App Survey.png

And that’s why people are trolling Government after they published the survey results.

How to lie with statistics.jpg

This reminded me of Darrell Huff’s book  “How To Lie With Statistics?” which he wrote way back in 1954. Huff  would be very proud of “Namo App Survey” developer! 🙂

The media is also openly criticizing the survey gimmicks. The Financial Express wrote this:

What is alarming is the way Govt is trying to defend this decision. Maharashtra CM said that anybody who opposes PM’s decision is “anti-national”. That is adding insult to injury. We do not need this kind of test to prove our nationalism.

I don’t know what this event will lead to – in terms of Economic prosperity or otherwise, and in terms of Political mileage. But this is certainly creating a divided society…but then it is a hallmark of the ruling party’s politics.

To end it on a lighter note, here is how BBC’s “Yes Minister” TV Series captured how leading questions can lead to a survey outcome you want:

“Narendra Modi App” Survey designer must be a huge fan of Yes Minister, and in particular the above scene 🙂

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