Fuzzy Math: When 10 Points is Really 9

Well, her royal heinous (er, sorry, highness) has won the Pennsylvania race, and the mass media is tripping all over itself to make her the nomination, in spite of what the majority wants. Nevermind that Obama was 25+ points down just a couple weeks ago, mounting what should be seen as a remarkable comeback in PA of his. But that's not what has me riled... No, instead, it's the bad math.

Based on the results posted at CNN.com, Clinton is said to have won 55% of the vote to Obama's 45%, giving her a 10-point win. This "double-digit" win is being talked about all over the place. Unfortunately, it's a fictitious number based on double-rounding, and it's misleading. I know, I know... quit picking at nits... but it's irksome!

If you add up the votes each candidate has received, and then divide each candidate's vote count by the total, you will see the following breakdown:
Clinton: 54.668%
Obama: 45.332%
The media have rounded these numbers - up for Clinton and down for Obama, according to standard math practice, such that there is a 10-point delta. However, if you just subtract these two numbers, you'll see that the different is actually 9.336, which would then round down to a 9-point delta.

Is this significant? Well, yes and no. For starters, you take away this tagline of Clinton's "double digit win" that the media has latched onto. Second, it shows that she lost more than 15 points in the run-up to the election. Third, it reflects just how poor the math is of the media and pundits.

Who cares? Yeah, probably... nonetheless, in my mind, a 9-point loss seems much less than a 10-point loss... moreover, she's still in second place in the delegate count.

Let's hope for a definitive win in NC and a strong showing in IN to put this whole primary process to bed once and for all. The old man (McCain) is getting too much recovery time, and I'm getting sick and tired of Clinton talking about how she's more electable despite being consistently in 2nd place for the past several weeks. Not to mention her rush to run a negative-only campaign, but anyway...

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This page contains a single entry by Ben Tomhave published on April 23, 2008 3:43 PM.

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