This image is currently doing the rounds on social media:

enter image description here

The implications and associated text with it is usually around how uncanny (and amusing) the correlation is. What's the source of this data and is it actually accurate or a fake?

EDIT: Here is a better-quality picture taken from a more recent post.


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    xkcd.com/1138 – DenisS Sep 17 '18 at 18:36
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    It's pretty obviously a recolouring of the referendum map to make a joke about correlation not implying causality. The joke works because you'd expect a correlation (both BSE and Leave-voting tended to be more common in rural areas) but not the implied "mad" causality... It's obviously not a real BSE map: it depicts higher BSE in (Leave-supporting) former-industrial conurbations like those around Sunderland and Wolverhampton than in (Remain-supporting) rural farming areas like the Scottish lowlands, the Cotswolds, and Northern Irish borderlands – user56reinstatemonica8 Sep 17 '18 at 19:19
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    From the context where I first saw this the point intended was a topical humorous illustration of "correlation≠causation" not a substantive point making a real claim. – matt_black Sep 18 '18 at 10:56
  • And the map doesn't look like other maps of the BSE prevalence in the UK like the one in this paper – matt_black Sep 18 '18 at 11:04
  • I can't make out the labels in the key. Is there a better image? – fredsbend Sep 18 '18 at 20:12

The data is fake, the original was intended to be humorous not realistic

The context of the original post clearly indicates that the intent was a humorous illustration of the point that correlation doesn't equal causation.

The Snopes analysis shows that the BSE map is a fake created by altering the referendum map. The Snopes comparison of the maps is convincing: snopes maps.

Moreover, other maps of the prevalence of BSE in the original outbreak look very different. This paper, for example, shows the map below (left hand map is BSE prevalence):

actual prevalence of BSE in 1997

The two maps are very different (not least in Scotland) in detail. The differences are too large for the supposed 1992 map to be realistic however redrawn.

I think we can conclude that this was never intended to be a serious point merely a faked humorous illustration.

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