How Presidential Polls Work: D+7 or R-3 And All That

Unleash the polls! No, I don’t mean the men who bravely served under Grand Duke of Lithuania Władysław II Jagiełło (free bad joke of the day!), but those election omens which nowadays plague news reports. It is well to understand how these things work.

If a poll is to be used to predict the outcome of a vote—and not, say, shoring up the hopes of a beleaguered constituency; See Times, New York, polls—then there are two important points to remember:

  1. The sample of the poll must “look like” the eventual voters. This is true for any statistical model, not just polls. Models only apply to new data that “looks like” the data used to build the model.
  2. A poll is always accurate for the “kind of” sample it represents, just as any statistical model (excepting mistaken calculations) is always valid for the “kind of” sample that was used to form the model.

The first one you probably knew, though we still have to define “looks like”, but the second one you might not have. About these more in a moment.

Size of poll

The “size” of a poll is also of interest, but not of much interest: almost all polling agencies gather a sufficiently large sample (but beware those with numbers less than about 400). The size of the poll is what gives those “+/- 4 points” (or whatever) which appear in fine print and which are routinely ignored. These numbers are always wrong; that is, they do not mean what you think they do. They are, however, an argument for using predictive rather than classical statistics.

The plus-or-minus

The “+/- 4” means that in infinite repetitions of the poll, 95% of the infinite repetitions will produce numbers +/- 4 points of the original poll. But since not even the federal government has time for infinite repetitions, it would better to just perform the (Bayesian) calculation and state the actual uncertainty.

In practice, if you don’t understand any of that gobbledygook, this means adding a point or two to the stated plus-or-minus. Thus a “+/- 4 point” becomes realistically a “+/- 5 point” or “+/- 6 point” uncertainty, and so forth. You must always do this. This is the uncertainty assuming the sample “looks like” the eventual voters. If the sample does not look like the eventual voters, then you must increase the plus-or-minus.

Cheap bias

So what does “look like” mean? Well, lack of bias, for one thing. Let’s not consider what we can label “NPR bias,” which creeps in with questions like, “Are you against the death of innocent children?” where a “Yes” means support for a tax increase to create new bureaucracy which tangentially involves studying children’s eating habits, and where it will be reported that “78% of Americans are in favor of the job the government is doing.” For non-NPR listeners, this is usually easy to spot and discount.

The bias I mean is how far a poll systematically departs from what the eventual voters look like. To understand that, we first have to examine “random” samples.

Random sample

First, forget all the nonsense you hear about a poll having to be a “random” sample. Random merely means unknown and no pollster worth his (hefty) fee samples “unknownly.” “Random” sampling is another holdover from the classical days of statistics, when people still believed that creating a “random” sample imbued it with mystical powers without which it could not be modeled.

What you really want is known sampling, controlled sampling, purposeful sampling. This is why pollsters make a point to sample both men and women, blacks and whites, Catholics and Protestants, why they take individual samples within States and within localities inside States, and why no pollster just “randomly” samples citizens.

“Random” dialing, even after the pollster slices the data into chunks, does not provide any benefit. Removing bias in the dialing does; about this more in a moment. For a fuller explanation which explains the magical thinking involved in “random” sample, see this article; and then this one.

Our own poll

You and I are going to conduct a poll (and ignore the burdensome +/-). Since this a blog of Right and Reason, of Morality and Manliness, of Science and Sanity, you agree with me that Romney is the only choice. Very well, that’s 2 for Romney, 0 for Obama. 100% for Romney, then. Somebody call the press.

Now, this is a poll. It is no better or no worse than any other poll—as long as we keep in mind point #2 above: that all polls are valid representations of kind of people sampled. This poll is thus an accurate judgment of people who think and will vote like you and me.

But since you and I don’t “look like” the people who will turn out next week, this poll won’t be very good at predicting the results of the general vote. So what precisely does “look like” mean?

Looks like

Every person has a near infinitude of characteristics: he or she has a sex, an age, height, weight, lives in a particular place, has read some books but not others, watches certain television programs but not others, works at a job or collects government largesse, drinks or abstains, prays or preys, and on and on and on some more.

Because the number of characteristics is immensely large, no sample can ever look like the eventual poll census in every particular. (This is also why we don’t need “randomness”, because random sampling cannot guarantee equal dispersement of characteristics; only control can.) But a sample can look like its population if we only consider a subset of characteristics.

For example, eventual voters are usually split about equally between males and females. We could easily design a sample which (non-randomly) includes an equal number of men and women. That sample then “looks like” the population. At least as far as sex goes.

But what about “likely voters”, what about race, what about resident and age and religiosity, etc.? Which of the infinitude of characteristics are important and which not? The answer, which you will not like, is that nobody knows. Or nobody knows exactly. We do have a guideline, though.

Important characteristics

A characteristic is important to the extent it changes the judgment of uncertainty in how a person will vote. Make sense?

Suppose you are blind and somebody sets you down in Cincinnati and you ask the first person you grab (not seeing whether this is a man or woman). What is the probability that person will vote for Romney? Given no other information1, except assuming this is an eligible voter, you can only conclude 50%—unless you think living in Cincinnati confers probative information.

Now suppose you learn the person is a registered Democrat. What is your new judgment of the probability this person will vote for Romney? Lower. Knowing the characteristic party affiliation has changed your judgment of uncertainty, and by a lot. Party affiliation, then, is extremely important.

Next suppose you learn this person chewed Bazooka Joe and eschewed Juicy Fruit as a kid. Does that change your judgment of uncertainty in whether this person will vote for Romney? Not really, no. Gum preference is therefore unimportant.

And so on across an endless list. Pollsters have moderate to good guesses which characteristics are important and which not, because they have found these characteristics to be important in past polls. Whether they have identified all of them or whether these characteristics will remain important are open questions—with answers leaning towards No.

Regardless, pollsters take characteristics which they deem important—and no two pollsters agree on their lists—and then they seek a controlled sample based on them.

Practical characteristics

We agree party affiliation is important for voting, but it is also probative for “turn out.” That is, knowing a person’s party affiliation changes our judgment about whether he will show up to vote. Historical observation showed that in 2008, Democrats out-showed Republicans by a sizable margin at most locations. This was not so in the 2010 mid-term elections, where the disparity vanished or even favored Republicans.

The 2008 disparity is one reason why you see discrepancies in sampling of today’s polls. Pollsters are guessing more Democrats than Republicans will show (and by certain margins). If they are right, then they should angle their samples in the direction of more Democrats, because they want their sample to “look like” eventual voters.

Problem is if they guess wrong, or that if people who are Democrats say they will vote but will not more often than Republicans, then their sample will not look like eventual voters.

Influential forecast

This “over sampling” of Democrats angers many people. And that may be because of their unstated, but felt, appreciation that polls are, to some extent, influential forecasts. They have a gut suspicion that if purposely biased polls are repeatedly released, polls which favors the legacy media’s darling, then this may depress turn-out for the party of the Right. And if the candidate of the not-Right party wins, the polls which predicted his victory will thus seem “good.”

There is some truth in this, but the effect is likely small, especially at the national level.

What is a good poll?

A good poll is one which matches the eventual vote breakdown. A bad poll is one which does not. In advance of the actual election, there are only two ways to judge goodness and badness.

The first is how well the pollster has done in previous presidential elections. Since not many pollsters have polled many presidential elections, simply because we have had very few of these elections, past performance is thin evidence. Not useless, just of little value.

To the extent you feel a pollster’s performance on non-presidential elections matches his performance on presidential elections, then there is more evidence from which to draw, from the many Congressional elections, for example.

The second is how well you think the pollster has done in making his sample look like the eventual voter turn out. This is hardly quantifiable (which is not a detriment; there is far too much unnecessary quantification in our world). If you think a pollster is loony for releasing a D+9 poll in Ohio, then obviously you will give that pollster much less weight.

Polls are not probabilities

Lastly, polls are guesses of what the vote breakdown will be, and are not probabilities of winners and losers. Some polls now have Romney at 48% and Obama at 48%. This does not mean that Romney or Obama has a 48% chance of winning. It means this polls guesses the actual vote will be 48% for Romeny, 48% for Obama (plus or minus something).

To get to a probability, we take this poll (and other poll results) and other information (such as GDP, unemployment, etc.) we deem probative and put it into a model, which gives us prediction of who will win. Nate Silver has done this and derived a 74.6% (or whatever) chance for Obama. But see this article on Silver’s “lucky guessing.”2


1This is a difficult point for some. To clarify: “no other” means “no other.”

2Silver was also good at marketing himself, telling the world he used “Monte Carlo” simulations for his model, a term which is unbearably sexy to some. As an unknown statistician I say this in all jealousy.


  1. Ok, Mr. Briggs I appreciate you tackling this. A question if you don’t mind, though.

    This debate over stratification of party ID across a sample seems to have caused quite a bit confusion as well as tension, especially when it comes to the issue of weighting a sample.

    In a so-called random sample for a political opinion poll I thought the party ID was based on how the respondents identify themselves. I understand that there are many factors which a polling agency will factor in for weighting a poll such as economic background, race, age, and whatever other pertinent factor they might consider important. However, when weighting a poll is Party Identification a factor which is mathematically figured in?

  2. txslr


    Good question. But it can be even more complicated than that, can’t it? I wonder about the way pollsters determine who is likely to vote. From what I’ve seen from looking at internals of various polls, pollsters ask respondents how likely they are to vote and use the answers to cull the samples. But what if those results show that 96% of Dems are “likely” to vote, but we know that the actual number has never been that high?

    What if we have observe in prior elections that >95% of Dems say they were likely to vote, but only 50% of them actually did so? What number should the pollster report?

    I suppose you would if your objective is simply to publish what you find you would go with the 96%. But if you are intending your poll to be an ‘accurate’ prediction of what is going to happen on election day, you should apply some judgment, shouldn’t you?

    It seems to me that this is the issue many on the right are raising with respect to the polls they are seeing. They see polls that show party identification about even between D’s and R’s, they see enthusiasm higher for R’s by double digits, they see self-identified independents breaking strongly for Romney, but they see Obama winning because D projected turnout (based on how you treat ‘likely voters’) is higher than it is has ever been.

  3. max

    M. Elliot,

    the answer to your question is “sometimes”.

    Of the majors, usually Zogby & Rasmussen weigh by party ID while Pew, Gallup & GWU don’t. That’s considered a major reason why Rasmussen polls have frequently been outliers and why Rasmussen polls are stabler than other polls.

    On the state level most of the polls are unweighted by party ID.

    In the 2008 election exit polls showed a 39% D 32% R split of voters (not that exit polls are problem free). Rasmussen was weighing 40%D 33%R, Zogby was weighing 38%D 36%R, & Research 2000 was weighing 36%D 25%R for polls right before the election – NONE OF THEM HAD THE RIGHT WEIGHT FOR PARTY ID ACCORDING TO THE EXIT POLLS. Rasmussen was pretty close, Zogby wasn’t too bad but Research 2000 was pretty far off (hmm, I don’t recall hearing of any Research 2000 polling this election).

  4. Briggs

    Mike Elliot,

    Excellent question, which I should have put in the main text. But it has an easy answer. Weighting is only done to take a given sample and attempt to make it look like the eventual voters.

    For example, supposed your sample contained 80 women and 20 men, but you thought eventual voters would be 50% of each. You’d down-weight the responses of the women and up-weight the men’s.

    Once you have more characteristics than just sex, then weighting becomes complicated and often introduces error. But that’s a weakness for all statistical models.

  5. txslr

    At the risk of belaboring a point, I just looked at the CNN/Opinion Research Poll for Colorado which shows Obama ahead by 2% points. They identify as “likely voters” 84.5% of the registered voters interviewed (I use the decimal place in honor of Nate Silver). In 2008, according to the GMU Elections Project, about 71% of Colorado’s registered voters actually voted. This year Democrat enthusiasm is down according to virtually every poll, early voting in Colorado is running behind 2008 and Republicans outnumber Democrat early voters (as of today).

    Rasmussen has Romney leading in Colorado by 3%. So which sounds more plausible?

  6. Sylvain Allard

    1) If polls were that good, then why would any country hold election at all. Polls tell very little to voter but it can surely tell a lot to the campaigners who makes many decision good and bad based on that.

    What I find scary from afar is the US is destining itself to a second civil war soon if the polarization and tension keep rising.

    Everything on the republican side is set up to cast Obama as an outsider and that if he win the election it will because of fraud and if Romney win it will be because he earned it.

    The reality is that in person voter fraud is really rare. Republican are the one who were caught frauding with registration and are the one who passed laws to prevent legitimate people to vote.

    With Romney has president the USA wil have nothing to envy to the Taliban. The extremist right in the US is scarier than the Taliban and is in the way to lead to a second civil war.

  7. rank sophist

    With Romney has president the USA wil have nothing to envy to the Taliban. The extremist right in the US is scarier than the Taliban and is in the way to lead to a second civil war.

    I’m no fan of the Tea Party’s extreme element myself, but that’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard in my life.

  8. Milton Hathaway

    I really appreciate your efforts to explain the party identification issue that has become so prominent in the presidential polls this year, Professor Briggs, but, alas and alack, I still don’t understand.

    Why do the do pollsters ‘control’ for party identification? Since party identification so strongly correlates with candidate choice, heck, why not go all in and just control for candidate choice directly?

    In other words, party identification seems like a characteristic to be polled-for, not controlled-for. Controlling for a predicted party identification comes across to me as just begging the question.

  9. Richard Hill

    What about the betting odds? Altho polls show the contenders close, some books have O at 1.5 to 1 when R is 4 to 1 against. Isnt betting likely to be a good predictor, since the punters have their own money in it?

  10. Will

    Sylvain Allard said:
    “With Romney has president the USA wil have nothing to envy to the Taliban. The extremist right in the US is scarier than the Taliban and is in the way to lead to a second civil war.”

    Coming from someone who lives in the most socialist (and corrupt) place in all of North America, this statement comes as no surprise. (re corruption: in the news last week it was revealed that the Mayor of Montreals safe was so full of bribe money that the door couldn’t close!!!!)

    America is a diverse place Sylvain. When you blend it all together it comes out a nice boring shade of grey almost directly between black and white. Romney or Obama winning won’t change that. Life will go on. Eventually they will get health-care reform, as will Canada, and we can start complaining about other things.

    Now, if anyone is bringing a country close to the brink of civil war you only need look in your own Belle Province and its anti-anglo laws! Our common love and admiration of George Saint-Pierre could be the only thing keeping things together!! 🙂

  11. DAV

    Speaking of polls, where there any results published of a recent one here?

  12. Sylvain Allard


    You are very naïve if you believe that what happens in Québec isn’t present anywhere else.

    A report recently stated that roadwork were more expensive in Ontario than what is seen here in Québec, how would you explain that?

    As I stated before what is consider here in Québec as corruption might well be considered as normal practice somewhere else.

    The difference here is that more people have incentives to speak up about such practices. By the way, Charest came from the Federal party that has face the most charges for irregularities. And some of their leaders heaven went to jail for it.

    The US used to be a great melting pot. But in recent years extremist have high jacked the politic.

    There have been more filibuster in the last four years than there ever was before.

    More than 2000 new militia are born in the last 4 years.

    Some State like Texas express the desire to seperate from the US.

    Mass shooting are ever more frequent.

    The desire to restrict the freedom and equality of women is at its highest. Over 92 laws have been passed since 2010 to reduce the possibility of abortion and there is heavy pressure to reduce access to basic contraceptive. Wisconsin even passed a laws making it legal to pay a women less because she is a women.

  13. Bill S.

    The bumper sticker poll in southern California has Obama going down big time. In 2008, every Prius and Camry proclaimed hope and change. In 2012 even the Chevy Volt’s are clean. Pure guess but I would estimate that Obama enthusiasm is somewhere between 10 to 50% of what it was.
    Republicans do not apply bumper stickers because their cars will be vandalized by the tolerant progressives of the left.

  14. Sylvain Allard

    “Republicans do not apply bumper stickers because their cars will be vandalized by the tolerant progressives of the left.”

    Republican prefer shooting people and preventing people from voting because they are so tolerant.

  15. Ray

    We used to do monte carlo simulations to select tolerances for parts in electronic circuits. Typically you would use 10 percent tolerance parts and you wanted to determine if circuit operation was satisfactory so you perturbed the parts values as you simulated circuit operation. You needed a good pseudo random number generator for this simulation and most available in the 1970s weren’t very good. I still view monte carlo simulations with skepticism. I’m not impersed with Silver using monte carlo.

  16. Rob

    The garden sign poll in Fort Lauderdale and surrounding counties seemed to show very high Romney support. Maybe only republicans have gardens?

  17. Bill S

    That is why I voted for Romney in Brigg’s poll.
    Trying to evaluate and not wish cast.

    Can’t do the garden sign poll in southern California anymore.
    I put up a McCain sign in 2008 and my property got “Sylvained”

  18. Sylvain Allard


    I guess that no property with a Democrate sign ever got trashed.

    There are stupid people everywhere.

  19. Sylvain,

    At first I thought your observations about militias and civil war in United States were ridiculous then I remembered that you might know a thing or two about secessionist movements since you have quite a prominent one in Quebec.

    From Wiki

    The Quebec sovereignty movement (French: Mouvement souverainiste du Québec) refers to both the political movement and the ideology of values, concepts and ideas that promote the secession of the province of Quebec from the rest of Canada. While some historic affiliations to the movement suggested a violent, militarist revolution for the creation of a separate country, most groups seek to use negotiation-based diplomatic interventions, which would eventually lead to Quebec becoming a country. In 2012 the secessionist Parti Québécois was elected to a minority government, with Pauline Marois becoming the first woman to be Premier of Quebec.[1][2]

    Maybe us South of your border, should be the ones who are worried about militias and violence coming from up North. Not the other way around.

  20. Sylvain Allard

    Mike Elliot,

    Yes, there is a strong separatist movement in Québec, which like it said the vast majority of separatist want to achieve it through voting and negotiation. The solution of the declaration of independence is not even envisioned by separatist, to the exception of few individuals.

    In the early 1970’s, there was some violence associated to the FLQ which was an extreme group which was strongly disavowed by the separatist party leader René Lévesque. There were even some bombs that were sent through mail. It is now known that the RCMP sent/place some of those bomb themselves, which have hurt people. Separatism in Québec has divided the people very much although the violence was very limited in time.

    The US already had a very bloody civil war which ended almost 150 years ago. The number of militia and hate groups is close to 2000. These people usually vote republican by the way, they have strong Christian beliefs and they are heavily armed. The number of peoples joining those groups is on the rise, and the violence posed by those groups is also on the rise. The polarization of the politic in the US that the automatically describe the other as un-American, or that say that the President is not American, a Muslim or a Communist is really exciting these groups and render the likelihood of violence a certainty.

    Texas also as a strong secessionist movement.

    You can see how ugly these groups are here:

    Limbaugh and Foxnews sided with the militia at the time.

    The fact that so many Republican favor those groups makes it very possible of a second civil war.

  21. Marty

    To Sylvain Allard–I don’t sit here in Chicago thinking I know all about what is going on in Canada or Quebec, even if I know some Canadians and Quebecois and occasionally read a canadian or Quebec paper—and your assuming that you know all about Texas and the US is the height of arrogance.

  22. Will

    Sylvain: The separatist government is trying force Anglos out of the province. They are trying to bully people to leave.

    You’ve implied that strong Christian beliefs are a bad thing, and that gun ownership is a bad thing, without providing any reasons why. The US constitution does happen to mention the right of citizens to bear arms.

  23. DAV


    You can see how ugly these groups are here

    Are you serious? 10 guns of which only 4 are rifles and one is a shotgun? Looks like the FBI raided a hunting camp with maybe 4-5 guys. Not a very big secessionist movement.

    When I was a kid and into hunting we had more than that at home.


  24. Sylvain Allard


    I don’t think I know everything about the US but I still have had over 200 class hours of US history class not counting the dozens of books I’ve read, the hundred of hours watching the news, and the many trips I made accross the border.

    I may be arrogant but I keep myself informed with something else than Foxnews (who has been shown to make people dumber by several paper) and Limbaugh.

  25. Sylvain Allard


    The picture is not from the Michigan raid where they capture the man planning to kill a policeman and then attack the hundreds of policemen from around the world at the funeral.

  26. Doug M


    You alluded to the Nate Silver 538 blog, any commentary on the methodolgy? My understaning is that he takes these state polls and models a probability distribution for each state. Then he throws numbers into a random number generator, and 75% of the time the dice say that Bronco Bamma is going to win.

    You have discussed Intrade, but do you have opinions about the accuracy of “prediction markets”

    You have also discussed ‘wishcasting’ in earlier posts. Justin Wolfers has recently been getting some press in suggesting that the question “who do you think will win” has more predictive power than the traditional “Who do you indend to vote for”?

  27. MattL


    Do you recall the reported P-Values for those FoxNews studies?

  28. Sylvain Allard


    Strong religious beliefs aren’t usually a bad things but they on occasion lead to very misguided action. Tim Mcveigh, 9/11, assassination of doctors in the US who provide abortion, that right wing nut in Norway, etc.

    I have nothing against hunting firearm, but handgun and assault weapon have no place outside the army and law enforcement.

  29. DAV


    Let me get this straight: you say You can see how ugly these groups are here then where they capture the man planning to kill a policeman and then attack the hundreds of policemen from around the world at the funeral.

    Maybe that was a typo, eh? One man does not make a group.

    So, the government adorns it report with the horrific and terrifying arsenal that can be found at just about any hunting camp. The drug dealers in DC are better equipped. So did Bonnie and Clyde. IOW: it’s puffery meant to prick the prim and proper sensibilities of elderly grannies and apparently some natives of Canada by pointing out spots on their rose-colored glasses. My Word, Lucille! There are bad — BAD! I say! — people in this world! What’s a body to do?

    And they didn’t even try to make it believable. Doesn’t it make you wonder what else they exaggerated? Like “seditious conspiracy”. Reminds of a NYC bank robber who was charged with armed robbery when it was discovered he had a gun in the trunk of his car. Or like someone I know who was charged with the possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony because, when his coke party got raided, there was a locked gun safe in his basement. Puffed charges to make the grannies swoon.

    That these morons who got arrested thought they could actually accomplish much except for a shot at 15 minutes of fame would be hilarious if it weren’t for the fact they could have hurt someone.

    In any case, 10 people doesn’t make a very large secessionist group.

  30. DAV

    I have nothing against hunting firearm, but handgun and assault weapon have no place outside the army and law enforcement.

    You obviously know little about guns — or hunting for that matter. I always carried a handgun when hunting. Even when bow hunting. They are good defenses for close quarter dangers like rattlesnakes, coyotes and wolves.

    What exactly is an assault weapon? Is an AKM47 knockoff semiautomatic rifle an assault weapon? If it doesn’t look like military issue but functionally identical — like a semiautomatic deer rifle (legal in some states) — is it still an assault weapon? What about the SKS in the picture you linked that looks like a deer rifle? Is that an assault rifle? It was originally the successor to the AK47. Fires the same ammo. Is the shotgun an assault weapon? IMO, the most dangerous weapon shown is the shotgun. I used one for pheasant and turkey hunting. If I had to choose, I’d rather be shot with the Mak90, it makes smaller holes albeit at a further range.

  31. Sylvain Allard

    I don’t know of anyone needing an AK-47, M16 or AR-15 knock off to hunt in Canada. Handgun are very hard to acquire in Canada and guess what gun violence is very rare. And of course, there are more people who shoot themselves or loved ones than actual murder.

    We have had a big total of 3 schools shooting 1 caused 17 victims, 1 had 4 victims, and 1 had 1 victim. That last one was stop before it began.

    In the USA there is more than 10,000 victims of murder per year.

  32. DAV

    So if someone mows down a small crowd by running into them with a pickup truck your response would be to outlaw pickups? A bit like treating cancer with pain killers: feels good but hardly a cure.
    Of course, no one *needs* an AK semi for hunting but it’s functionally equivalent to most deer rifles so why exactly is the AK so much worse? Just looks scarier?

    Is the population of Canada higher or lower than the US?

  33. Sylvain Allard


    A gun only purpose is to kill. Although someone could use a car or plane as a weapon this is not their purpose.

    Yes Canada is less populous than the US but Europe is more populous and their gun violence is at par with Canada.

  34. DAV

    This may turn out to be a repeat. Don’t know what happened to the first try.

    gun violence is at par with Canada.

    So, your main goal is the reduction of gun violence and not a reduction of violence in general? You want to cure a symptom and not the problem as if that is the solution? Is this an example of socialist logic?

    You didn’t answer my question of why a gun that resembles a military weapon is so much worse than a non-resembling one. Your response is guns kill even though you have said I have nothing against hunting firearm[s]? It’s really an emotional issue for you?

    A gun only purpose is to kill.

    That is what happens in hunting, yes?

  35. DAV

    I think my last reply was removed by the spam filter. I tried posting twice and it never showed up.

  36. Will

    Sylvain, you said: ‘Strong religious beliefs aren’t usually a bad things but they on occasion lead to very misguided action.’

    Unless I have been horribly mislead the #1 and #2 ‘misguided’ actions I know of both prohibited religion (#1 = Mao, #2 = Stalin).

    ‘Tim Mcveigh, 9/11, assassination of doctors in the US who provide abortion, that right wing nut in Norway, etc’

    Tim M cited Ruby Ridge and Waco, Hans B (Norway guy) cited immigration, and Neuf one 1 was anti-America, not anti-Christian.

    The whole gun thing… . Per capita we Canadians own more firearms than our American cousins. I grew up with guns a plenty (shot guns, hand huns, rifles) and was firing them from a very young age. Same with all of the kids I grew up with. I think the gun thing is a red herring.

  37. Sylvain Allard


    Gun violence in Canada is rare and handgun ate very rate. We have hunting weapon in the house in secure case which I have shot a few time.

    Religious is not only Christian, it is also Muslim, Judaism, and atheism.

    China as a long history of authorities that kills a lot of people Mao was hardly novelty.

    Everyone lately speaks of how Ahmedinijad is bad in Iran. Do you think it was better with the Shah. The Shah was just as ruthless but was supported by the US.

  38. MattL


    Yes, I think it was clearly better with the Shah (which isn’t at all the same as saying that he was a nice guy). C’mon, this is just more trolling, right?

  39. Sylvain Allard


    From wich point of view? From the Iranian point of view there is very little difference, they were severely mistreated undr the Shah who used weapon from the US to maintain power and they are now severely mistreated by the Ayatollahs who use weapon from the Russian to keep power.

    The tragedy of Iran is that the democraticly elected president Mossadeg in 1953, was reversed by the UK and the USA because of the horrible crime of wanting to nationalize the oil industry and share its profit with the people of Iran.

    But yes for the US it was better when the Shah was there.

  40. Briggs

    Sylvain Allard,

    About Canada’s tax system, I am ignorant, but here we first tax income in the sense the government lets you keep a portion of what you earned. You can take this remainder home and spend it on many things (not large sodas in NYC; but many other things). You can even invest this already-taxed income, and maybe, if you’re wise or lucky, you can make a return.

    Amazingly, the government also taxes this return on investment; i.e. taxes the money it already taxed a second time. But, in its beneficence, it taxes it at a somewhat lower rate (historically, anyway; the rate will increase).

    Buffet pays that kind of second-tax tax. Romney too. I pay the first, but hope to pay the second. Buffet, the old codger, pretends he wants to pay more. As Katie says, who’s stopping him? Me? You? Obama? Answer that, if you please.

  41. Sylvain Allard

    Mr Briggs,

    I live in the province where the taxes are the highest in North America.

    Here the federal sales taxe 5% is taxed 9.5% by the provincial. Taxe on gas are taxed 3 times.

    I think our tax system is simpler though than yours. Here we mainly taxe the individual by the income tax (up to 49% combined) and sales taxes (15% combined). Companies tax are lower 15% for company that make product and 29% for financial institution but with many loophole where most don’t pay taxes. Company also don’t pay taxes for having hired someone but they have to pay par for social security, unemployement, parental unemployement (5 weeks for a new born), CSST (to cover injured employee), and 3.5% for healthcare. We also have city tax and school tax.

    We don’t pay taxes on inheritance except for capital gain and we can’t deduce our mortgage.

    We pay a lot of taxes but we also have many services. We have a debt in Québec of about $250 billion, but we have about $150 billion in reserves.

    No one is preventing mr Buffet to pay more taxes if he want too but I won’t shed tears if millionaires would pay more taxes.

    Concerning mr Buffet. He gave something like $20 billion to the Bill Gates Foundation. He still makes a lot of money and he doesn’t look like he takes much advantages of loopholes.

  42. Sylvain Allard

    It is kind of funny to see that many of the states that voted Red are states that receives more money that they can send. They are a large part of the people Romney said that they felt they were entitled.

  43. Jonathan D

    “The “+/- 4″ means that in infinite repetitions of the poll, 95% of the infinite repetitions will produce numbers +/- 4 points of the original poll.” Either I’m not reading very well, or you’re being much sloppier than you usually are when explaining stats.

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