Polling Margin of Error Joke (Mexico Wall Edition)

Polls! There is little I find more delightful than looking at columns of numbers. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in here, but here’s the part that made me laugh. (Fair warning: It will probably only make you laugh if you’re a nerd.)

In basically every poll, there is some percentage of people who respond don’t know, don’t care, no answer. Pollsters sometimes try to push these people to pick an answer anyway, to expose people who say they don’t have a preference (maybe out of embarrassment), but in fact do have a preference. There’s a lot of contention around whether this leads polls to be more accurate or less accurate – and the majority opinion among pollsters at the moment is “less accurate.” This poll, as is typical, has a column for non-responses.

Basically, unless a pollster FORCES this number to be zero, it is never zero. You can ask a group of a thousand people whether they like their own name, and a couple percent are going to say they don’t understand the question or have never heard of themselves or they saw something out the window just now, what is that thing? (You could think of it like a typo rate. No matter who you are, you’re definitely going to mess up a word somewhere, even if you totally know.)

In this poll, EVERYBODY has an opinion on whether Trump is going to build a wall (probably not) and whether Mexico is going to pay for it (firm no). For context, 3% have “no opinion” of Donald Trump. How many people have no opinion about the wall? Zero percent.

This is so COMPLETELY in keeping with my experience every time I or a friend is doing home repairs.

I think a lot of songs need to be rewritten: “Don’t know much about history, don’t know much biology, but I do know that despite not owning a roof I have strong feelings about roofing materials.”

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