Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ranting about polls, not politics

Sorry, no oddments this time. I get the feeling that the Hedge itself has paused to sup on all the strangeness that the mortal world is generating during this 24-hour period.

Okay, let’s look past the politics for just a moment and look at these polls. I’m more likely to get a straight answer about Google’s page-rank algorithm, but I want to know who decides how to call each state as on this “board”. Take a look at these cropped screenshots from MSNBC.com, taken as quickly together as my fingers could manage.

Frankly, this North Carolina shot strikes me as the most honest of the three. It shows that McCain and Obama are neck-in-neck, with 84% of the precinct results reported. 16% of the precincts remain, and it’s certainly possible that the lads will be scrapping for every one of those precincts.

Here’s one I just don’t understand. It gives Arkansas to McCain, with 55% of the results, as opposed to Obama with 43% of the results. All right so far, but the fact that 29% of the precincts have reported the results doesn’t seem to matter. Pause for a moment and review the previous example, then look at this Arkansas score again, and then explain how these two judgements can be posted on the same page from anyone, let alone on MSNBC.com.

To be fair, here’s one giving New Mexico to Obama with 56% and McCain with 43%... but only 12% of the precincts have reported! I may not have had stellar success when I was trying to learn statistics, but when 88% of a state’s precincts have not reported their results, exactly how can it be “called” for either side?

And, of course, the one that tops them all. As you can see, California is being handed to Obama with no results at all officially reported! What is going on here?

The math is clearly not on the side of the people running this board.
Unfortunately, publicity and page counts are. I mark this as just one more example of how poorly educated most U.S. citizens seem to be…

Full disclosure: I live somewhere in California. I very much wished to avoid declaring an allegiance to a political party before the election, because I feel that part of the election procedure violates the concept of a "secret ballot". I did vote for Obama, and I'm pleased as punch to have an end to the Republican nightmare in Washington. I'm also pleased to be alive on the day when the United States sheds its last vestigial racism where it really counts: putting an African-American into the White House.

Now, let's see how well Obama follows through on his promises...

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