As the NROTC results are being discussed and debated, it’s likely that the term margin of error is going to get thrown around. So, what is the margin of error? According to Jon Hill, Bwog’s Nate Silver Correspondent of Mathematical Wizardry, there is none. Here’s why:
Votes counted: 2,971
Undergraduate enrollment (2007 [2008 figure was unavailable]): 7,411
At a 95 percent confidence level:
= [1.96 * ((0.5)/sqrt(2971))] = 1.80 percentage points
With finite population correction:
= sqrt[(7411-2971)/(7411-1)] * 1.80 = 1.39 percentage points
So the figure +/- 1.39 percentage points would be the MOE, and that would take in the 1.32 percentage point difference between the YES and NO votes.
However, because this survey is not a random sampling by any means, there can be no true margin of error calculated. You can’t extrapolate these results to the entire undergraduate population. As a result, any criticism based on MOE in this case is a statistical canard, especially since there are plenty of other legitimate flaws in the survey results to point to.