Thursday, January 3, 2008

Margin of Error

It's hard not to weigh in on national politics on a day like this. After months (years?) of hype, the blockbuster we've all been waiting for finally hits theaters. For political junkies like myself, the Iowa Caucus is kind of like Christmas Eve. Tomorrow we get to unwrap the newspaper and see if we got the shiny new bike we've been begging for - or socks.

After reading countless articles about Iowa, the one thing I am sure of is that absolutely no one has any idea who is going to win on either the Democratic or Republican sides. In fact, just as interesting as the outcomes of tonight's battle royale, if not more so, will be seeing how accurate (or erroneous) the poll numbers are we've all been browbeaten with as if they were the gospel. The media, which, as always, has denigrated the nuance of issues to a horse race has pounced on each new poll like addicts to a fix. Though the problems with their obsession are many, two of the biggest ones are:

1) The polls are often inaccurate because people lie when called by pollsters, not just about the candidate they will support, but more so about whether they are actually going to go out and vote (which could be a major blow to Obama's numbers, since a large number of his purported supporters would be first-time caucus goers).

2) The media depends upon these polls so they can mega-hype one candidate as the frontrunner, but given the standard margin of error they gloss over, their anointed winner could very well end up placing third (check out for numbers galore and a fine analysis of the problems with polling).

So, the bottom line is don't base your vote on poll numbers hoping to select the candidate with the greatest alleged "electability" - a ridiculous gage that can only be validated in hindsight. Pick the candidate who represents what you believe is best for you and best for your country.

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