Thursday, April 08, 2004

Repeat after me: This is not a margin

If Reuters, which specializes in numbers, can't get it right, what hope is there? But we battle on.
In a story yesterday about the vote turning down a Wal-Mart in California, Reuters wrote:
Voters in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood have rejected by a 2-1 margin a ballot measure that would have allowed Wal-Mart to build a sprawling shopping center in the heart of their town.

A reminder: It's impossible to have a xx-to-xx margin in anything. The xx-xx or xx-to-xx form signals a ratio (unless you're reporting actual votes).
Margin means the difference of one figure over another. So if Reuters had actually given us the vote totals, say 20,000 to 10,000, that would be a 10,000-vote margin.
Those California voters turned aside Wal-Mart by a 2-1 ratio.

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