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Ask Marilyn: The Truth (or Not) About Polls

Robert Zaiens of Hudson, Florida, writes:

Marilyn: Say a political poll is accurate within a +/- 3 percent margin of error. Does this mean that if two candidates poll at 53 percent to 47 percent, they are possibly even?

Marilyn responds:

That's correct. Also, say that poll is repeated a week later. Now, the politician who led with 53 percent has dropped to 51 percent, and the other politician has risen to 49 percent. Can we say the leading politician has lost ground? No, we can't.



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