Thursday, April 24, 2014

That Pesky Margin of Error

There's a Politico horserace poll story today that, among other things, finds Rand Paul leading Hillary Clinton in Colorado.
Sen. Rand Paul appears to be the man to beat in Colorado in 2016, a new poll says.

Colorado voters would favor the Kentucky Republican over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by 48 percent to 43 percent in a potential 2016 presidential race, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.
The poll has a 2.7 percent margin of error.

Let's do the math:
  • 48 + 2.7 means the actual result could be from 45.3 to 50.7
  • 43 + 2.7 means the actual result could be from 40.3 to 45.7
So here's the thing. Paul could be as low as 45.3 and Clinton as high at 45.7. That's called a statistical tie. Yes, only barely a tie.

On the other hand, if you look at the polling shop's previous Paul vs. Clinton polling it's been fairly consistent, with Paul at either 47 or 48 percent in Colorado, Clinton at either 43 or 44 percent. So while the pesky margin of error suggests something of a tie, if you look at the polls as a whole, it's fair to say Paul leads Clinton in that state.

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