About Stuart Levine

Presidential Politics

Our Statistician, Margin O'Ferror

This explains what "margin of error" means:

Take the margin of error (shown on the left) and match it to a particular candidate's lead (shown on the top) and one can determine the likelihood that the leader will, in fact, prevail. This is taken from a Kevin Drum explanation.

September 6, 2008 Update--

Here's a slightly different version of the same chart:

As explained by Mano Singham, a theoretical physicist:

[I]f a candidate has a 3% lead with a 3% margin of error, far from being a dead heat, it is highly likely (84% chance) that the candidate is actually ahead. Even if the candidate has only a slim 1% lead and the margin of error is a whopping 5%, it is still not a 'dead heat'. The candidate still has a 58% chance of winning.

September 28, 2008--The Bear Facts

Senator McCain has pointed to Federal funding of a study of grizzly bear DNA as a example of an earmark system gone wild. It's not.

The description of the project's goals, here, states as follows:

Genetic techniques provide the ability to identify species, individuals, and gender from bear DNA which is obtained from hair. With an appropriate design, bear sign survey methodology (hair found on trees and posts that bears naturally rub on) and systematic hair snag stations (baited stations located away from trails and developed areas), can be used to estimate the population size of grizzly bears. The amount of genetic variation within the population can be described using information from both sampling designs.

The goals of the larger project of which this study was a part are here.

More interestingly, FactCheck.Org reports:

Despite the fun McCain had ridiculing the bear project on the Senate floor, he didn’t actually try to remove it from the bill. He did introduce several amendments, including three to reduce funding for projects he considered wasteful or harmful, but none removing the grizzly bear project appropriations. And despite his criticisms, he voted in favor of the final bill.

Incidentally, the Senator who created the "earmark" was Montana Senator Conrad Burns, who now, after losing his reelection bid in 2006, is a lobbyist and the chair of McCain's Montana campaign. Burns wanted to do the study so that more oil fields could be opened up in Montana by finding the grizzly has recovered from near extinction to pave the way to open up some federal lands in Montana for drilling. Source:Double Demon at newsvine.com and Source:the Billings Gazette.

April 13, 2008--Barack Obama's Out of Touch?

changed September 28, 2008