Frank Morgan's Math Chat
Answer. Tell the Nader supporters to flip a coin: heads vote Nader, tails vote Gore. This should yield about 50% for Gore and 50% for Nader, for totals of 12.5 million for Gore and 2.5 million for Nader. According to the famous statistics formula for polls, with 95% confidence, the chance error is less than 100% over the square root of 5 million, less than .05%, a mere 2500 votes. The chance of Gore's losing because too many heads come up is infinitesimal.
Probability can work better than planning. For example, telling Nader supporters above a certain age to vote for Gore could fail if most Nader supporters are young.
Todd Feitelson of Millbrook School has reservations: "In truth, each voter should vote his or her conscience, especiallythe Nader voters. That's how change occurs -- not in one election, but over time."
New Challenge. Suppose all that any voter in the US cares about is that different parties control the Presidency and the Congress. If there is no communication, how should each voter vote?
Send answers, comments, and new questions by email to Frank.Morgan@williams.edu, to be eligible for Flatland and other book awards. Winning answers will appear in the next Math Chat. Math Chat appears on the first and third Thursdays of each month. Prof. Morgan's homepage is at www.williams.edu/Mathematics/fmorgan.
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Copyright 2000, Frank Morgan.