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  Statistical Noise in Election Polls
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ContributorScott³ 
Last EditedScott³  Jun 13, 2012 10:11am
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CategoryNews
AuthorNATE SILVER
News DateWednesday, June 13, 2012 04:10:00 PM UTC0:0
Description"Some headlines on Tuesday suggested that Barack Obama has a problem among his African-American base. The warrant for this claim is a new Public Policy Polling survey in North Carolina, in which Mr. Obama won only 76 percent of the black vote, compared with 20 percent for Mitt Romney. Mr. Obama won 95 percent of the African-American vote nationwide in 2008, and 95 percent in North Carolina, according to exit polls.

This is not a great poll for Mr. Obama. Public Policy Polling, which conducts polls for Democratic clients as well as issues them on its own behalf, has had a Democratic “lean” so far this cycle. Mr. Obama trails Mr. Romney by 2 points in their North Carolina poll, and that might imply a somewhat larger disadvantage for him if another polling firm were to survey the state.

Our forecasting model had been pessimistic about Mr. Obama’s chances to win North Carolina even before this poll was released, giving him just a 30 percent chance of doing so.

But if the overall numbers of the poll are of some significance, the notion that Mr. Obama is in much danger of losing his African-American voters is not really justified by the survey. The reason is simply that there isn’t a sufficient sample size to come to much of any determination about the question.

The poll surveyed 810 North Carolina voters, and weighted its demographics such that 22 percent were African-American. If you do the math, that suggests that about 180 respondents in the survey were black."
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