Thursday, May 3, 2007

The media can't read polls

The Rascal doesn't give a rat's rectum about Sunday's presidential election in France, but it annoys me to no end that the global media are misreading the latest poll results on the race.

As you can see here, Reuters is out with a story stating that one candidate is "well ahead" of the other. The story calls it a "commanding lead." But the poll of 1,415 people actually shows a margin of just 54 percent to 46 percent. That is not a commanding lead. It is not necessarily a lead of 8 percentage points.

If the margin of error in the poll is, say, plus or minus 3 percentage points, which seems reasonable with a sample of that size, the race might well be extremely close.

The news media regularly misread poll results. Reporters and editors generally are ignorant of the most basic principles of public-opinion polling. The public knows even less about such matters.

We'll have more to say about this issue as next year's U.S. presidential election draws nearer.

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