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Wednesday, September 29, 2004
The Randomness of Polls

One of the more poorly understood things about polls is how random they really are. For example, the obvious purpose of polling is to estimate as closely as possible what the outcome of the vote is going to be. But suppose we did know the outcome of the vote, because it was the day after the election. Well, then we could look back at the prior day or two's worth of polls and judge them by how well they stacked up against the actual vote.

I set up a simulation of, for example, a Pennsylvania poll with 726 voters. It is assumed for the simulation that if you could poll every likely voter in Pennsylvania the result would be Kerry 46%, Bush 44, 2% others and 8% (of the likely voters) not voting. Then I created a poll of 726 likely voters (the number used in a recent Quinnipiac Poll) and via random numbers compared to those percentages, allocated each voter to a candidate, and compared their polling percentages. Then I ran the simulation 50 times. The results may seem a bit surprising. Kerry's polling varied from a low of 41.6% in year 33 of the simulation to 50.4% in year 39, while the President's numbers varied from 40.1% in year 39 to a high of 48.5 in year 29. In fully 1/4 of the polls the President was leading, when, based on the assumption, Kerry should be leading by 2%.

The polling becomes more accurate in the aggregate; after 50 runs thorugh the 726 likely voters, the overall average was 46.02 for Kerry, 43.98 for Bush. Of course, the problem is that nobody wants to actually poll some 36,000 people, so they use the smaller numbers, which are subject to wild fluctuations. For example, suppose one poll had shown Kerry ahead by a full 10 points, and then the next week showed Kerry losing by almost 7 points; there would be a strong presumption that the campaign was falling apart, and every mistake that Kerry had made would be subjected to scrutiny in search of the cause, and yet it is completely within the realm of possibility that no movement actually occured in the underlying public opinion; both those results came out in the 50 runs I made, when the assumed public opinion was Kerry by two.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
Digital Brownshirts News Is On The Air

this is an audio post - click to play


  Endorsements: "11 Most Underrated Blogs"--Right Wing News

"Brainster is the Best"--Allman in the Morning FM 97.1 Talk (St. Louis)

"This is blogging like it oughta be"--Tom Maguire (Just One Minute)

"Quite young and quite nasty"--Civil Discourse Bustard (One out of two ain't bad)

Contact Me: pcurley (at) cdwebs (dot) com

Brainster in the Media

Howard Kurtz's Media Notes: May 27, 2005

Slate Today's Blogs:

March 16, 2005

May 9, 2005

June 3, 2005

Cited for Breaking the Christmas in Cambodia story (at Kerry Haters):

Hugh Hewitt: KerryHaters was on this story a long time ago. How could the elite media not have asked these questions before now?

Ankle-Biting Pundits: Our friends Pat and Kitty at Kerry Haters deserve the blog equivalent of a Pulitzer for their coverage of Kerry's intricate web of lies regarding Vietnam.

The Weekly Standard

Les Kinsolving

Greatest Hits

What If the Rest of the Fantastic Four Were Peaceniks?

Lefty Bloggers on Gay Witchhunt (linked by 16 blogs including Instapundit)

Kitty Myers Breaks Christmas in Cambodia

Brainster Shows Brinkley Says No Christmas in Cambodia

Explanation of the Blog's Name

Power Ratings Explained

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