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math lesson

By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Jan 07, 2008

Today, class, we'll be doing a simple problem involving statistics.

An American Research Group poll, released on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, shows Senator Obama leading Senator Clinton among the state's likely Democratic voters, by a margin of 11%.

A Franklin Pierce University poll, released the same day, shows Obama leading Clinton by just 3%.

The American Research Group pollsters claim that their results are accurate within 4%; the Franklin Pierce survey gives a 4.9% margin for error.

Question #1: Can these two poll results be reconciled, given the margins of error provided by the pollsters?

Question #2: If so-- if an 11% margin might really be only a 3% margin-- what is the predictive value of these polls?

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Jan. 09, 2008 4:53 PM ET USA

    Clearly, they were all wrong Bad side: Hillary Won Good Side: Media and pundits had egg on their faces Overall its a wash

  • Posted by: - Jan. 09, 2008 4:54 AM ET USA

    Who cares. Hillary won.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 08, 2008 8:34 AM ET USA

    Good point, but not quite stastically accurate. An 11% margin might really be only a 7% margin, and a 3% margin might be up to a 7.9% margin, but an 11% margin can't be a 3% margin. Putting the two polls together actually provides the much more precise margin of only 7-7.9% for Obama. It's only useful, of course, if the pollsters accurately represent the margins of error and the polls were well-conducted otherwise, which is by no means a guarantee of accuracy and predictive value.

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