Polling

What do you regard as the most important factor in the health care debate? If I wade into this question, would you prefer to hear more about what the public thinks, what the likely outcomes ahead may be--or what the law itself is likely to accomplish going forward?

What people believe about the likely impact of a given piece of legislation can be markedly different from its actual impact. It seems likely that the Affordable Care Act, if fully implemented, will end up creating benefits for a great deal more than the 18 percent of Americans who think it will based on the new Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

Also, what people want to happen can also be very different from what will happen. At the present juncture, Congress and the White House have very little to say about the future implementation of the health care law; that's much more the province of the courts.

These subtleties are really important if you are planning for the impact of this law on your business--or if you are thinking about campaigning or voting for or against this law.

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Herman Cain is rising in the polls of Republican primary voters, but prediction markets are not buying into the Cain surge. On Wednesday evening, MSNBC led its web page with the breaking news that the network's latest poll showed Cain atop the GOP presidential field, with 27 percent support; Romney was a close second at 23 percent, and Rick Perry placed third with 16 percent.

Yet the prediction markets, where users can buy and sell contracts on who will ultimately win the Republican nomination, are still very skeptical of a Cain victory. The real-time markets assessing the likelihood of the Republican nomination still have Romney enjoying a commanding 65.7 percent lead, with Perry trailing at 12.5 percent and Cain at 10.1 percent. Here is a look at how the leaders have progressed over the last few weeks:

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Polls are important. You see a lot of them during a campaign season. The question is, what do they really mean?

The quoted margin of errors are large and significant. And, the real error is much larger and more significant than the quote margin of error!

Yet, despite this margin of error and the daily fluctuations, polls are a very meaningful source of information in understanding and predicting an election. You just need to be clear on what a poll means and how best to use it.

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