The Top Line On Polls

As the presidential race heads for its final days, the polls are being watched more closely than ever. They continue to diverge widely, showing everything from a 3% Kerry lead to an 8% advantage for Bush. How accurate can they be? Notebook asks some common questions.

Are pollsters sampling the whole country? Pollsters usually interview about 1,000 registered voters and, thanks to the magic of statistical math, 95% of the time those 1,000 accurately reflect the opinions of the entire country, give or take a margin of error of plus or minus 3%. But some people are not reached. Polls are...

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