November 1, 2012 Leave a comment
The news entertainment industry has been shoving polls in our faces for months now. The numbers seem to contradict each other and change wildly. Does this mean polls can’t be trusted? Or is it possible that news entertainment doesn’t understand math?
I’m going with the latter. A few weeks ago, Science Friday on NPR had two guests on to explain polling and how it can be used to determine probabilities with regards to the Presidential election.
Statistician Nate Silver predicted 49 of 50 states correctly in the last election, while founder of the Princeton Election Consortium Sam Wang was off by only one electoral vote.
Silver and Wang use meta-analyses of polls and other math magic that I don’t understand, and both give President Obama a sizable advantage over Governor Romney.One of the problems with poll reporting is an emphasis on national polls even though state polls are better indicators of our electoral college system. A candidate who wins Ohio by one vote get all of the electoral votes. National polls cannot factor this in, showing only what the popular vote may look like. State polls also typically get more respondents.