Monday, December 03, 2007

No statistical difference

NPR reporter David Greene, in a report this morning on the run-up to the Iowa presidential caucuses, called the race for the Democratic nomination a three-way “statistical dead heat” and, within the same sentence, commented on the interesting fact that Obama is edging out Clinton. He said it twice, actually, in different words.

Um, no. If there is no statistical difference, then there is no statistical difference. Nobody is edging out anybody. If you’re going to report on statistical results of polls, you should understand at least that much about poll results. Attaching political significance to statistically insignificant differences is irresponsible journalism, and claiming you weren’t a math major is no excuse. Shame on you, David Greene!

Numeracy matters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's like that Star Trek episode where Spock is looking at his tricorder and says, "The energy level is off the scale and still rising." If it's off the scale, how can he tell if it's rising?