Percentages vs. Numbers

While these days we’re evenly split in terms of the quantitative versus qualitative work we do at The Interpreters, we’ve always been a fan of numbers.  They’re powerful, impactful and easy for our quantitative team to understand.  But how we distil these numbers and how we make sure they have an impact with our clients’ businesses is part of our daily challenge.  But what is more effective – a story with numbers (population sizes, segment sizes, etc) or percentages (proportions of people, segments, audiences of interest, etc)?

Long have we debated whether the pen is mightier than the sword but has anyone challenged the ‘Powerful Percentage’ to a battle against the ‘Noticeable Number’. It’s a battle of Federer v Nadal proportions so inspired by the U.S. Open, we take the fictional tennis court to see who wins this battle by looking across the globe for serves and aces when it comes to facts and figures.  Let the game begin.

Commentary: Percentages serves to get us under way

54 Grand Slam men’s titles won by the trio of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic since Wimbledon 2003 seems like a large number but that’s 83% of the Grand Slam titles.

Commentary: 15-0 to Percentages after a 17 point rally

Recent Gallup research from the U.S. identified that 30% of U.S. adults personally own a gun, while 43% report that they live in a gun household, which equates to around 90,000,000 households in the U.S.

Commentary: Giving that point to numbers unfortunately.  15-15

It was estimated that 2 million people attended one protest in June in Hong Kong, which sounds large but when you realise the population sits at 7 million, that’s a staggering 28% of the population

Commentary: Percentages cross court forehand.  Numbers challenges referencing being 1 in 4 people in the population.  Umpire over-rules.  Percentages leads 30-15

There are 20 million more people in Bangladesh even though the area of the country is 116,000 times smaller than that of Russia.  Point to Numbers

Commentary: 30-30 

In the 1920s, The British Empire ruled over 23% of the world’s population or 66 countries 

Commentary: We’ve gone to Hawkeye but challenge gives Numbers a break point.  30-40

Percentages pulls out the Don Bradman – 6696 runs in numbers but claiming his average of 99.94 as a percentage

Commentary: Deuce

76 percent of Americans want to travel more than they do currently but 11% have never left their own State

Commentary: An ace brings up game point for Percentages

Numbers throw up that 24 men have been to the moon but a quick return from Percentages with the fact that only 50% of them have walked on the surface

Commentary: And there’s the game to Percentages on serve

Decisive winner?  Not at all … first game in what looks like an absorbing battle.  Both players demonstrated they have weapons in their game, effective in their own right.  Perhaps it’s quantitative research that’s the winner today. 

By Paul Dixon

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