Category Archives: Tool Kit

Got polls? Disclose, disclose, disclose

See correction/update in post, added 5 hours after initial post. Maine is a lightly-polled state, at least compared to larger states and the nation at whole. Therefore it’s not surprising that every poll that’s released gets a fair amount of attention. Unfortunately, some pollsters and news stories don’t meet the minimum disclosure standards for pollsters, […]

You want to know who’s going to win? How to read the polls

There are so, so many public opinion polls out there these days, particularly for the presidential race and the most hotly-contested Senate races. Putting aside the many technical aspects of public opinion polls, here’s some rules of thumb for reading them, plus some resources: 1. Don’t cite one poll if there are many polls on […]

Provenance and polling: Look to the polling firm’s track record

Maine’s conservative on-line “news” service, The Maine Wire (which is run by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, MHPC), responds to a poll showing Angus King ahead in the Senate race, with House incumbents Pingree and Michaud ahead as well, by saying “Consider the source.” Now, there is no doubt it’s worth looking at who conducted […]

Misinformation abounds on Obamacare budget estimates

A recent bit of misinformation that’s floating around, promoted by opponents of Obamacare, is the false claim that new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates show that it will cost a lot more than originally estimated. There are two main problems with this claim.  One is that the CBO in fact says that their new estimate […]

Just the (numerical) facts. No innumeracy, please.

PolitiFact started as a good idea — fact-checking campaign ads and speeches. Although reporters can simply include a discussion about whether these were accurate, a free-standing fact check operation provides a locale for citizens to visit and retrieve compiled evaluations. In my view, fact-checking should be incorporated into news stories, although some of these analyses […]

Innumeracy strikes again

Mathematical illiteracy leads to muddled statements Back in 1988, John Allen Paulos published a book identifying and explaining mathematical mistakes in published articles. Innumeracy: Mathematic Illiteracy and its Consequencesled to lots of discussions and to some journalism departments adopting curricula intended to avoid this problem. Yet innumeracy has not gone away. One recent example from […]