Understanding poll error margins and statistical ties

Ever wondered what’s going on when pollsters talk about “error margins,” “statistical ties” and elections that are “too close to call?” Here are a couple of quick explanatory videos as well as downloadable spreadsheets you can use to calculate basic error margins for poll percentages and detect statistical ties.

Calculating an error margin.

Download the error margin spreadsheet shown in the video

Detecting a “statistical tie,” or when a poll is “too close to call.”

Download the “statistical tie” spreadsheet shown in the video.

Skeptical? Think it’s all hocus pocus?

If all this stuff about probability and error margins seems like a too-far leap of faith to you, find two pennies, then watch this video. It won’t explain everything about probability statistics, but it will explain the basic reasoning behind them.