"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Margin of error

Inkless has been getting exercised, and rightfully so, about the apparent innumeracy of Toronto’s National Newspaper.

To the meek defence of the Globe and Mail, the stupid error they committed is easy enough to commit, when the pollster in question puts the results of the “momentum” question ahead of the vote-intention question in its daily releases.

What everyone is missing, however, is why the pollster is even asking a question about "momentum" at all.

“Which Party has the most momentum towards a federal election?”
What is “momentum”? Would you know how to answer the question? Would anyone? Even hacks?

The question is meaningless, the responses from interview subjects are meaninglesser, the aggregated results are meaninglessest, and the carefully weighted aggregated results are, well, meaninglessesterest.

"Momentum" can perhaps be calculated from periodical changes in vote-intention or best-PM figures. But how many of the three-day sample of 1500 respondents could define “momentum” for themselves long enough to answer the question meaningfully?

"Momentum" is physics, not street-level politics. Allan Gregg may as well be polling Canadians on moment of inertia or potential difference.


At 10:43 AM, December 16, 2005 , Blogger Liam O'Brien said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 10:49 AM, December 16, 2005 , Blogger Liam O'Brien said...

I like the fact that they're trying to understand what poeple think about momentum. But I do agree that on its own it doesn't tell us much of anything.

person "A" may be a strong supporter of "party x" but they may still think that another party (unfortunately in A's view) has "momentum."

The only words that are more irritating, overused and meaningless these days are "proactive" "synergy" and "charisma." They all used to have meanings. Not so much any more . . .

At 11:29 PM, December 16, 2005 , Blogger WJM said...

I don't think "proactive" ever really meant anything!

At 1:13 PM, December 17, 2005 , Blogger Liam O'Brien said...

fair enough!

At 11:39 PM, December 20, 2005 , Blogger Clinton P. Desveaux said...

Too bad I don't know anyone who has ever been polled before

At 2:16 AM, December 21, 2005 , Blogger WJM said...

I have been! And I lied through my teeth both times!


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