If you follow the political news then you probably have come across discussion of poll results that are within or beyond the "margin of error". The margin of error is a statistic associated with the poll; the results reported in the newspapers typically include it in their fine print down towards the bottom, and occasionally the pundits even mention it. But what exactly is it? Is it really that important? And what is the right way to make use of it? Read on -- as little or as much as you’d like -- for an explanation.

The short version