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Reply #17: The Margin of Error [View All]

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Febble Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-22-05 02:03 PM
Response to Reply #8
17. The Margin of Error
has relatively little to do with the accuracy of polls. It is normally computed on the assumption of random sampling, which means that the larger the sample the smaller the MoE. Exit polls therefore have a very small MoE; pre-election polls rather larger.

However, the MoE does nothing to protect your "educated guess" from any violation of randomness in your sampling, and it is extraordinarily difficult to get a truly random sample - which is where the educated guesses actually start. Pollsters often aim at a "representative" rather than a "random" sample, by having demographic quotas, by stratifying the sample, or by weighting for the visible demographic characteristics of non-responders.

It is a scandal and a tragedy that we cannot rely on your vote-counting system (or even rely on your entire electoral system to ensure that everyone entitled a vote can get as far as casting a vote). But that simply means that both the vote count and the polls may be inaccurate; it doesn't not magically confer accuracy on the polls.
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