October 30, 2008

How To Really Read a Poll

Polls are tough because big numbers are tough.  If we're going to bring our critical thinking skills to polling, we need to dig a little deeper than the headlines.  Most of the time, a single poll doesn't give enough information and can be dismissed.  The guys over at FiveThityEight.com have it right.  (538 is the number of total electoral votes.)  Combine the findings on many polls to get a clearer picture of things.   You may have seen headlines about "tightening races" in the presidential campaign.  That would be in certain states, and not always the most important ones.

"With no fewer than 45 polls released since our last update, covering essentially all of the major swing states, we have a pretty good idea of where this race stands -- a far better idea than you'll get by trying to discern the meaning of John Zogby's divining rod or paying any attention to what you see on the front page of Drudge Report. What we can say, when we put all this information together, is that there are two things that John McCain is NOT doing."

He goes on to show how McCain will not be gaining ground quickly enough or in the most important states.

So it's a done deal, folks.  The thing I'll be more interested in here in Georgia is to see if Jim Martin can get that Saxby Chambliss.