Tallying Delegates

Friday, February 01, 2008


As results come in from the various presidential primaries, media tend to focus on the popular vote. But primaries are actually a race for delegates. Tim Noah, senior writer for Slate, explains why media have traditionally shied away from number-crunching and why this year may see a new focus on the complicated delegate system.

Comments [1]

Stanley J. Heginbotham

Tim Noah has noted the following in his slate.com commentary, but I think it deserves On the Media attention because so many networks and papers have made the same basic mistake, which is really inexcusable in a serious organization:

Hillary Clinton won 54.657 percent of the Pennsylvania vote to Barak Obama's 45.343 percent (with 99 percent of precincts reporting). That's a margin of victory of 9.314 percent, or rounded to a whole percentage, nine percent. Most media -- print, TV and radio -- report that she won by ten percent – 55 to 45 percent. This is a result of a common statistical mistake: rounding the individual percentages and then calculating the difference, rather than the correct procedure of calculating the difference in percentages and then rounding the result.

Normally one would not quibble about this small error, but in this case it produces completely different answers to a key test that was widely suggested before the primary: Would Hillary win by a double digit margin? If she did, it was argued, that would be a far more significant victory than if she didn't. By that criterion, the widely reported but erroneous ten percent margin of victory seems much more significant than the actual nine percent margin of victory.

Great Program!

Stan Heginbotham

Apr. 24 2008 11:03 AM

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