The perils of innumeracy, Iowa caucus version

Because I’m lazy and technically on vacay, I don’t have time to link to all the offenders, but, honestly, people:

a) conflicting poll results in Iowa or different poll results in Iowa’s GOP race are not scientifical proof that Iowans are changing their minds (or flip-flopping as I just read, geez);

b) that’s just what happens when the world and journalists do not understand the concept of confidence intervals and repeated small-sample trials on separate subjects with nonstandard instruments.

IOW, for those of you who haven’t taken statistics and survey research, it’s entirely possible that the “He’s in the lead, now he’s in the lead, no, wait, now HE’S in the lead now” we hear from the media simply reflects noise rather than trend. If the leader and next-place candidate both reside within a confidence interval, there is *no evidence* that one person is in the lead over the other, and with that result, it’s entirely possible that the second-place candidate ranks higher than the first.

GARGH. I don’t know how political scientists keep from drinking themselves to an early death.