Debates about ‘social problems’ routinely raise questions: is the problem widespread?; how many people, and which people, does it affect?; is it getting worse?; what does it cost society?; what will it cost to deal with it? Convincing answers to such questions demand evidence, and that usually means numbers, measurements, statistics. However, the same group of statistics can be ‘manipulated’ by different sectors, including activists as well as policy makers. In this article the author explores was the way in which the impact of statistical dominance in social research was relayed by media coverage and also by social activists and policy makers.