FeaturedRandom AsidesSkepticism

Bad Chart Thursday: UK Elections Edition

Elections bring out some of the best examples of terrible charts, and the recent UK general elections were no exception. Throughout the campaigns and in the most recent reporting of results, we can find everything from blatant manipulation to hilarious mistakes.

Manipulating scale on bar charts was the most commonly used “tactic.” (I’m using scare quotes because I’m not sure if the tactic was intended to get votes or to insult the intelligence of every person looking at the chart.)

LibDem bar graph
Source: Robin Fisk
LibDem bar graph2
Source: Phil Maylor
LibDem bar graph 3
Source: Mark Wood

And of course, we have the truncated axis to exaggerate a difference that is not even outside the margin of error for poll results, courtesy of The Sun:


Even after the elections were over, the results reporting was skewed:


In the Haringey Council elections, apparently a new political party, the Lynne party, gave Labour a run for its money. There must be a ton of Lynnes living in that area to require their own party to represent them. Not enough Lynnes, however–they lost to the Catherine party.

Lynne party
Source: Michael Ertl

This election also brought out a relatively new kind of chart, which is as much fun to figure out as untangling a knotted-up ball of yarn. I am, in fact, 99.9% sure the chart was made by a cat. This topic interaction graph is intended to depict tweets on the hashtag #leadersdebate. It might be comprehensible if the same colors weren’t used for different topics, but to be fair, cats are color blind.

Yarn graph
Source: Philip Habel

Another chart related to the election issues is the pie chart that missed its calling as a bar chart. Brought to us by The Sun, this chart is intended to show the percentage of British voters who chose each topic as a top priority in the election, information that doesn’t really lend itself to pie chart display because the percentages don’t add up to 100. They aren’t really pieces of a coherent whole.

Issues Pie Chart

But the winner of the funniest election chart mistake goes to this chart, a “spot the error” shared on Twitter by Joseph Willits.


I’ll give you a hint (I needed one). Here are photos of Ed Milliband (left), the Labour party candidate for PM, and his brother, David Miliband (right).

Source: Wikicommons
Source: Wikicommons


And finally, for all you UK voters who are disappointed by the outcome of the recent elections, here’s a reassuring chart from Joel Tennant:


Melanie Mallon

Melanie is a freelance editor and writer living in a small town outside Minneapolis with her husband, two kids, dog, and two cats. When not making fun of bad charts or running the Uncensorship Project, she spends her time wrangling commas, making colon jokes, and putting out random dumpster fires. You can find her on Twitter as @MelMall, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

Related Articles


  1. Melanie Mallon,

    I have some internet buddies over in the United Kingdom that will be entertained by this.

    By the way, come the 2016 US presidential election, I would like you to do a Bad Chart Thursday: Presidential Election Edition.

    1. Thanks for sharing it! I will absolutely do a Presidential Election Edition.

      1. Melanie Mallon,

        You’re Welcome. I’ll try to remind you when the time comes ;)

  2. Off topic, but to cheer people up:
    In the last 9 weeks, there have been just 3 cases of polio reported worldwide (all in Pakistan, all ‘wild type’.) In the corresponding 9 weeks last year there were 49 cases worldwide, 40 wild type, 9 vaccine derived. (38 Pakistan, 1 Afghanistan, 5 Nigeria, 5 various ‘non-endemic’ countries.)

    The most recent (hopefully last ever) case of wild polio in Africa was 11 August last year, over 9 months ago. The most recent polio case of any kind in Africa was a vaccine-derived case on 16 November 2014.

    Source: http://www.polioeradication.org/Dataandmonitoring/Poliothisweek.aspx plus a spreadsheet I’ve kept of their old results.

    (Note these numbers record when the cases were reported to central authorities, not when they happened. There can be a couple of weeks delay in reporting.)

    My personal (not scientifically informed) bet is that the last ever polio case will be early next year.

  3. Dat graph with the yarn. I don’t even get the point of that. Who ever designed that graph?

    On the feminism front, I mostly remember Galloway questioning whether or not Naz Shah was in a forced marriage because her mother was present? If you want to see why Third World feminism ends up going to conservative parties, this. This is why. This is what I’ve been talking about for the last couple weeks. We’ve abandoned the Naz Shahs and Ayaan Hirsi Alis because we don’t want to look like a bunch of xenophobes. #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen

    (Bizarrely, the most intersectional article I’ve seen in several years, besides an opinion piece by Huma Munshi on this exact thing, was from a right-wing site. Go figure.)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button