If there's one thing reporters do that drives professional pollsters crazy, it's our often ham-fisted use of a poll's "margin of error."
"Nobody really uses it right. It's the most overused and underused critique," said Mark Mellman of national polling firm The Mellman Group.
He said journalists writing about poll results often say races are tied if a poll's margin of error is 5 percent and one candidate has a 5-point lead.
"That's not really true," he said. "The margin of error is a likelihood.
"The single most likely thing is they're five points ahead. But more than likely, they're ahead. The likelihood they're tied ... that's pretty low."
That's because margins of error work in both directions.
Here's a hypothetical example:
John Smith is running for Possum Hollow dog catcher. A recent poll shows 50 percent of voters plan to vote for Smith over his opponent, Bob Jones.
The same poll, which has a 5 percent margin of error, found Jones has 45 percent support among voters. Does that mean the men are tied?