# Polls: How the math is figured matters

By · Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Political polling is in full force, and it brings to mind the importance of knowing the difference between percent and percentage point. These terms do not mean the same thing. Using one instead of the other will alter the accuracy of the information.

Here is an example and an explanation:

Consider a \$90,000 home assessed at a tax rate of 2 percent of the full value of the home.

• If that tax rate were raised to 5 percent, the difference between 2 percent and 5 percent would be expressed in percentage points. The difference is 3 percentage points (not 3 percent).
• Expressed as a percent, the increase from 2 percent to 5 percent is 150 percent. (Find the difference between the two numbers and then divide by the original number. So 5 minus 2 = 3, divided by 2 = 1.5. Move the decimal to the right two places for a percent — 150 percent.)

When following coverage of poll numbers as they rise and fall, read and listen carefully when percent and percentage points are mentioned. You know the difference. And, should someone misuse one for the other, you will know that, too.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)