Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's So Random

You know, I was never the best statistics student. Math's just not my area. But I have enough basic competency so I would never be stupid enough to think a large, non-random internet poll is more accurate than a smaller, random-sample scientific poll. Which, unfortunately, is more than we can say for Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL).

Webster is pressing to eliminate the American Community Survey (a critical part of the Census), in part because it is "too intrusive", in part because it's "non-scientific". Why is it non-scientific? Because, to quote Webster, it's "random"! The New York Times can barely keep it together as it proceeds to inform its readers "[i]n fact, the randomness of the survey is precisely what makes the survey scientific, statistical experts say."

Random sampling is what makes the survey world go round. It is the only way to cost-effectively gather data about large groups of people given the impracticability of querying all of them. This is Statistics 101.


Mandi said...

Ha!! Love it!

PG said...

Mr. Webster says that businesses should instead be thanking House Republicans for reducing the government’s reach.
“What really promotes business in this country is liberty,” he said, “not demand for information.”

Are we sure this guy is a real person? He sounds like a parody of a Tea Partier. "The Founders didn't live in an information economy, and neither should we!" Is he planning to promote liberty further by ending intellectual property protections? Since liberty is paramount ("I bought this copy of Windows and have a right to do whatever I want with it") and information irrelevant to America's economic well-being in the era of globalization, we'll do fine without that $800 billion in IP exports.