Usually the staff at Blogistan Polytechnic Institute search for a tiny clue to the resident faculty’s intentions. This week they tricked us by leaving clues everywhere, pointing all over. We first tried to parse the clues logically, but then wondered: what if the avalanche of clues is itself the clue? (More)
First our usual thanks to last week’s guest lecturer. On Tuesday, Professor of Neuroholdemology Caractacus discussed What Disney Taught Me About The Tea Party. It sparked an interesting discussion and is well worth reading.
This Tuesday, Professor Caractacus continues his Things We Learned This Week series with the always-popular topic: To Be Announced. And on Wednesday, Professor of Jobdefilibrantology J Brunner Fan returns to the lectern with an update on the Ohio Secretary of State race. As always, Chef will distribute coffee and bagels and the Professor of Astrology Janitor will redistribute cleaners and buffers.
Note: We have Wednesday openings for Morning Feature starting next week. We also have openings for the BPI campus soap box Furthermore, our people-watching series Midday Matinee, and our evening environmental series Our Earth. If you would like to guest host Morning Feature or contribute otherwise at BPI, please volunteer in today’s Campus Chatter.
Also: Please share your stories of offline political activism in Things We Did This Week.
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Thus we return to the many clues left by the resident faculty as they made their way from the wine cellar library where they spent the weekend drinking thinking on our motto of Magis vinum, magis verum (“More wine, more truth”) to the hot tub faculty lounge for their weekly game where the underwear goes flying planning conference.
Many of the clues were scribbled references to polls pointing this way and that, including their own BPI Campus poll of Likeable Voters which initially showed 80% of Americans want to keep the letter B in the English alphabet. The fifth person in that sample was the dentist who opposes sugarless gum and the resident faculty decided he’s not likeable after all, so the final poll showed 100% support for the letter B.
While most polls are more rigorous than the one conducted by the resident faculty, their results still vary widely depending on how questions are asked, statistical noise, and – especially common in political polling – how the sample is selected. For example, the September 20th Gallup generic ballot showed Democrats and TGOPers in a virtual tie among registered voters, while most other polls show a 6-point TGOP lead among so-called likely voters … yet last week’s Newsweek poll showed an 8-point Democratic lead among what they call definite voters.
The messy data left even TPM‘s Josh Marshall befuddled. You might think messy data usually leaves us befuddled, but more often it allows us to tell any story we want. Cite the data that support your story, dismiss or explain away the rest … and – voila! – you can parse messy data to ‘prove’ almost anything.
This week Morning Feature will look inside the Newsweek poll, and others, to explore what we can learn from polls, what we can’t, and how to tell the difference.