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  PPP's Results Don't Excuse Its Bad Methodology
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Last EditedJ.R.  Sep 19, 2013 04:19pm
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News DateThursday, September 19, 2013 10:00:00 PM UTC0:0
DescriptionLast week, I wrote a long piece about PPP’s troubling methodological choices. Some people assumed it was a continuation of a fight the previous day between Nate Silver and PPP, but it’s not. And other people latched onto various elements at the expense of others. Many of those elements are important, like PPP’s baffling incompetence, or its decision to surreptitiously let the self-reported ’08 vote inform the racial composition of the electorate. But the broad point was more important than the details: I’m not sure it’s fair to say PPP has a methodology at all. And no, PPP’s results are not an adequate justification.

Polls work for a reason. It’s not voodoo. Polling works because pollsters appreciate and employ sound statistical principles to produce a representative sample of a target population—like, say, American voters. So, no, the “goal” of a poll is not to “get it right,” or another variant of the point that “PPP gets the results right, so I don’t see what the problem is.” The goal of a poll is to take a representative sample, because a representative sample should give you a representative answer. And whether a sample is representative is determined by methodological choices, not the accuracy of the result.
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