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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Griper Blade: Omens, Augurs, and Polling

Let's talk about superstition. If you wanted an unconventional -- but still accurate -- definition of superstition, you could say that it's the belief that unscientific methods can yield scientific results. Walking under a ladder predicts misfortune, while a rabbit's foot can skew results in your favor. Given this definition, a very short post at Buzzfeed may qualify as superstitious.

"Modern presidents who got re-elected were all leading in the polls at this point in their presidencies — as were some who lost anyway," wrote Zeke Miller yesterday. "Obama is in a statistical tie with Romney in the first Gallup daily tracking poll of the general election, and that might not be enough." The post goes on to spell out Obama's obvious electoral doom with a graphic.

But Nate Silver has a must-read post up about reading polling that pretty much blows this thinking out of the water. And when I say must-read, I mean go read it. In fact, bookmark it and check it later, when some partisan starts waving around some favorable finding or the media starts running wild with their close race narrative.

Silver's post consists of twelve rules to apply when reading about polling and it's the final rule that knocks out Buzzfeed's pseudo-scientific reading of history and the Gallup poll...[CLICK TO READ FULL POST]

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