This post is based on information in “Head In The Cloud” by William Poundstone. From 1993 to 2010 the US violent crime rate dropped precipitously. The firearms homicide rate dropped from 7.0 to 3.6% per 100,000, almost in half. The nonviolent crime rate plunged to a little more that a quarter of what it had been. It is difficult to think of another major social problem that had shown such dramatic improvement, but were people aware of this improvement?
A 2013 Pew Research Center poll asked whether gun crimes had gone up, down, or stayed the same over the last twenty years. 56% thought that the crime rate had gone up (wrong), and 26% thought it had stayed the same (also wrong). Just 12% thought it had gone down.
It is interesting that both sides of the gun issue believe that they have a better remedy for a surging crime rate that doesn’t actually exist.
Poundstone did a survey for an estimate of “the average amount of memory for a new tablet computer.” The most common answer, 10-99 gigabytes was the most reasonable one at the time of the survey. This answer got 40% of the responses. The second most common answer was gigabytes and that got slightly over 20% of the responses. So at least these respondents had the correct prefix before bytes. But the range of responses was from less than a kilobyte to more than hundreds of petabytes.
Poundstone also found that Americans think that there are far more Blacks, Asians, Gays and Moslems than there are actually are. In the public mind, Latinos, black, Asians, gays, and Muslims constitute about 25%, 23%, 13%, 11%, and 15% of the populations, respectively. This adds up to 87% of the population. Poundstone notes that even when you account for overlap, these high-profile minorities account for about two-thirds of the US population. So according to what these people think, whites are already a minority, and they feel threatened. The correct values are 17%, 15%, 6%, and 1%, respectively, which yields a total of 39%.
Tags: William Poundstone