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« For Science Geeks Only | Main | 'Roids »

January 14, 2008


Arthur (AmeriNZ)

When was the last time the news media covered elections as anything but horse races or sweepstakes? Journalists aren't interested in reporting facts because they don't sell papers/TV progams, and they probably don't understand statistics, anyway.

In this case, you're right to imply that, to oversimplify, the poll results mean the race is too close to call, but to know for sure, the reader would need a lot more information, like the size of the sample--usually, the more people sampled, the lower the margin of error. 4.5% M of E sounds like a small sample. Also, how was the poll conducted? If it was a telephone poll, it'll ignore those who have only cellphones, many of whom tend to be younger and more tech savvy than those with, say, only landlines.

But one can't assume that the 4.5% could go to one or the other, though it might. More likely, it would be divided between the two. Also, margin of error is meant to correct for sampling and non-sampling errors, but they cannot account for people lying to pollsters, interviewers leading a respondent to an answer, etc.

Which comes back to survey size and sampling method being crucial bits of information for evaluating any poll. The more people surveyed using diverse methods, the more likely the poll is to be somewhat correct. But in this election, polls are meaning very little, so it seems to me the whole system is fundamentally flawed. I bet the news media won't report that, either.


Facts? We don't need no stinking facts!


Facts? We don't need no stinking facts!


Glad she got Nevada now? I sure am! :D

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