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do the math

By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Jan 11, 2010

A special election will be held in Massachusetts next week, to fill the Senate seat that opened with the death of Ted Kennedy. 

Last week, a Boston Globe poll of likely voters show the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, leading the Republican, Scott Brown, by a comfortable margin: 50- 35%. 

A Public Policy Polling survey of likely voters, released the same day, showed Brown ahead, 48- 47%. 

The Globe poll claimed a margin of error of +/- 4.2%; the PPP poll said its margin of error was 3.6%. Go ahead: try the numbers. They don't work.

Wait; there's a possible explanation. The Globe poll was taken January 2- 6; the PPP poll was January 7-9. So you might say that as a Little Christmas gift, Scott Brown got 13% of the likely voters.

Alternatively, you might say that there's a margin of error to the pollsters' margin of error. 

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  • Posted by: The Sheepcat - Jan. 11, 2010 11:01 PM ET USA

    There needn't be anything fishy about this. Boilerplate statements about the margin-of-error of polls say the findings are accurate plus or minus however many points, 19 times out of 20. This could simply be the 1 time in 20.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 11, 2010 11:05 AM ET USA

    Alternatively, you could say the Boston Globe appears to have hired Dan Rather to do its polls.

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