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What's the margin of sampling error?

Posted at 7:21 AM on January 6, 2007 by Bill Wareham

During campaign season we at MPR News spend a lot of time fretting over polls, ours and everyone else's. Are they accurate? What do they tell us? What's the story behind the numbers? (And the news director's favorite: Are they worth the money we spend on them?)

But this time of year the poll I pay closest attention to is the Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll. I learned via npr.org that the validity of the poll has been undermined by a combination of Internet alternatives and controversy over the firing of P&J poll founder Robert Christgau.

So what's a guy to do to fill in the gaps on good music he might've missed out on over the course of the year? Let me suggest the picks of my colleagues upstairs at The Current. (I added M. Ward, Michael Franti & Spearhead and J. Dilla to the home collection based on their recommendations. One warning: Be very careful with Joanna Newsome - I would put that deep in the acquired taste category. Give Will Herme's NPR review a listen first.)