I realize that American public opinion polls have tenuously little to do with development or conflict, but I do sometimes write about statistics. (And, like most everyone, I am obsessed with tomorrow’s primary. Even though I can’t (yet) vote in this country.)
Back to polls. It seems that anyone who puts faith in these instruments is in for a rude surprise.
Stewart: How many people do you call? What’s the sample size? What’s…
Zogby: About 850, 900.
Stewart: And how many people answer? To get 850 to 900 to answer, how many do you have to call?
Zogby: We have to move into the next state sometimes.
Stewart: So when they say 850 to 900, you might have called 10,000 people?
Zogby: Ohhh, 6 000 maybe 7 000.
Stewart: 100,000. You call everyone in New Hampshire. So the polls should always say: remember, this has a plus or minus error of the loneliest people in New Hampshire?
Zogby’s response implies a survey attrition rate of more than 85 percent. And that’s if I’m hearing right. He might have said 60 000 or 70 000.
Short story: Polling numbers mean nothing. Garbage. John Stewart is evidently a more skillful statistician than every reporter in this country.