An Associated Press-Ipsos poll released today reports that about “one in four adults read no books last year.”
A story on MSNBC.com is predictably downbeat, but is the news really that bad? It’s not clear, because the article doesn’t put that figure into context.
In fact, if you compare this study to one conducted by the National Endowment of the Arts in 2002, the percentage of adults who read at least one book annually has actually increased from 57 percent to 73 percent over the past five years.
The MSNBC article mentions the NEA study but fails to make the comparison. Perhaps a little more digging would have unearthed an entirely different (and counter-intuitive) point of view for this story: “Reading on the rise. So why aren’t publishers cashing in?”
Media need to be a lot more careful when reporting data from surveys like these. Oftentimes, their stories imply trends and conclusions that sound right, but can’t be supported by the numbers.