Ask Marilyn ® by Marilyn vos Savant is a column in Parade Magazine, published by PARADE, 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA. According to Parade, Marilyn vos Savant is listed in the "Guinness Book of World Records Hall of Fame" for "Highest IQ."
In her Parade Magazine column of May 31, 1998, Marilyn attempts to explain how public opinion pollsters arrive at the margin of error, but fails to explain how it is calculated or that it is based upon the normal distribution.
As anyone who has taken a first year course in statistics knows, the so-called "margin of error" quoted for public opinion polls is actually the estimated sampling error for the poll at a 95% confidence level.
The sampling error is derived from the properties of the normal distribution, which has been known and studied by mathematicians for over 200 years and used widely in most of the natural, physical and social sciences since the beginning of this century.
Ms. vos Savant's response is a fabrication, pure and simple, with no basis in fact. It boggles the mind that she should publish such a ridiculous statement when the correct answer is so widely known that it is even taught to journalists these days.