In Tuesday’s front-page article about a recent Rasmussen poll, the newspaper states that Paul LePage “leads the race” with support from 39 percent of respondents compared to 31 percent for Elizabeth Mitchell. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percent.

Because of the intricacies of statistical modeling, the margin of error means that LePage’s true support could be as low as 34.5 percent and Mitchell’s could be as high as 35.5 percent. Therefore, LePage and Mitchell are actually in a statistical dead heat.

According to the article, Rasmussen surveyed 500 people for the poll. In order to achieve a lower margin of error (in the 3 percent range), approximately 1,000 people would need to be interviewed.

Of course, interviewing twice as many respondents would cost a lot more money — which is why we see a lot of polls with large margins of error.

The Press Herald is surely not alone in this oversight. Research has found that many media outlets tend to ignore or downplay the details of polling margins.

In the future, reporters should be careful how they phrase poll results, and editors may want to be more selective in which polls they choose to highlight.

Matt J. Duffy, Ph.D.

Westport Island

After seeing results of the most recent polling on the Maine governor’s race, I feel it’s time for Maine to change its election laws.

If the winning candidate receives less than 50 percent of the popular vote, we should have a runoff between the top two candidates. We always end up with a governor who nobody really supports.

If only 50 percent of the people go to the polls and the winner gets 40 percent of the vote, the governor would be directly supported by just 20 percent of eligible voters.

Also, if you have a Democrat and liberal independent running, they will split the vote and a Republican will win; or if you have a Republican and a conservative independent running, they will split the vote and a Democrat would win.

In either event, we get a less popular governor who may not be the best qualified or best choice.

This should apply to all elected officials throughout the state.

Charles Simons

Eliot

Council of Churches wants civil elections

Most faith traditions urge every person to treat other people as they would want to be treated — with no exceptions for behavior in political life or civic discourse. Most politicians and elected officials in our country consider themselves members of faith traditions that uphold these teachings.

Yet in our public debate and especially during election season, the level of invective, personal insult, and willingness to bend the truth, to do anything to win, seems to be on the rise.

In response to this trend, the Maine Council of Churches recently adopted a Covenant for Civil Discourse, a set of promises regarding the behavior of candidates and those of us supporting them.

The council is now asking every candidate for governor to sign these promises and stick to them as they conduct their campaigns. And we’re asking citizens, especially those who volunteer or contribute to campaigns, to do so as well.

What are these promises? They are simple and straightforward but potentially have great power to change the experience of elections for citizens and campaigners alike.

Act respectfully toward others.

Refrain from personal attacks (while maintaining the right to disagree vigorously).

Refrain from demonizing opponents (characterizing the opposition as evil).

Refuse to make untrue statements.

Value honesty, truth and civility while striving to find workable solutions.

And expect that anyone working on your behalf — or, if you are a voter, anyone you contribute to or work to get elected — will do the same.

To sign the covenant, just go to the Maine Council of Churches’ website, www.mainecouncilofchurches.org. Then do what you can to make sure our public discourse is worthy of the great issues at stake and the great nation we are and can become.

Roger W. Comstock

Vice President, Board of Directors

Maine Council of Churches

Yarmouth

Underage drinking a complicated problem

I agree with Michael Waxman in regards to his column about teenagers and drinking. This topic has bothered me since my children became teenagers.

When they were in middle school, every time they would hop in the car, I would talk about the dangers of drugs and alcohol to the point that they would look at me, roll their eyes and say: “Do we need to talk about not drinking or using drugs again?”

I was confident at the time that they understood, and they were adamant about heeding my warning.

Why I thought 16-year-olds would refrain from doing something that I did when I was their age I will never know, but the reality of what was really going on finally kicked in and I decided to clear out any and all alcohol from my house. I did not want them getting alcohol from home, even though I knew they would get it somewhere else.

Children are being punished as adults when they are caught consuming alcohol. Parents are being punished for furnishing a place for minors to consume alcohol, even if you thought you had an eye out for what was going on, and you were home.

Our children are drinking. They do not realize, because they are children, how this can adversely affect them moving forward with their lives and impact them when they mature to the point of actually being adults.

I thought that talking to them, removing alcohol from my home, and telling them to call for a ride if they needed one would prevent issues from occurring, but I was wrong.

I am not sure anything will help with this issue but time, hopefully without disastrous consequences.

Maria Kennedy

Cumberland

Cutting state budget should focus on waste

Time for state budget cuts again.

As a result of years of mismanagement in Augusta, we are again faced with making significant budget cuts.

So the politicans turn to services that will anger the public. How about looking at the Department of Transportation? We are now spending more on wages than repairing roads.

I’m also getting sick of jobs that have 12 state workers leaning on shovels, on a four-person job! Where is the outrage?

Dave Libby

Falmouth