Margin of Ignorance, Part Deux

This is your lucky day, dear readers — two items from Cincinnati!

In the wake of a Kerry campaign stop yesterday the Cincinnati Enquirer dutifully reported on the latest Ohio poll numbers today. As the paper correctly asserts in its lede, the latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll shows Kerry leading among registered voters, 52-42, and statistically tied amongst likely voters, 48-46. But in the fourth paragraph the paper errs in its attempt to explain why 52-42 is considered a lead and 48-46 is considered a tie.

But because the margin of error on the poll of likely voters is plus or minus 5 percentage points and plus or minus 4 percentage points for registered voters, it means Bush could be leading Kerry.

This is true for the likely voters, but not for the registered voters. When factoring in the four percentage point margin of error for registered voters, the best-case — and highly improbable — scenario for Bush would cut his deficit down to two points, trailing Kerry 48-46. Thus, according to this poll, there is no way “Bush could be leading Kerry” among registered voters. For the likely voters, however, factoring the five percentage point margin of error produces various scenarios in which “Bush could be leading Kerry”, or at least tied.

While we applaud the Enquirer for its effort, we suggest it read up on the subject.

Thomas Lang

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Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.