Anyone remotely familiar with the scientific method understands that just like a ruler or a telescope, statistics is a tool. Scientists use the tool primarily for one purpose: To answer the question, "Is my data meaningful?" Properly used, statistics is one of science's most powerful tools. But used improperly, statistics can be highly misleading.
Nate Silver, statistician and election forecaster, told ABC News that election forecasts that gave Hillary Clinton a 99% of chance of winning didn't "pass a common sense test." That is certainly true. What he left unsaid -- possibly because it wouldn't be good for his career -- is that all election forecasts that provide a "chance of winning" don't pass the science test.
What is a scientific poll? First, it is a misnomer. There is nothing scientific about a poll. Second, it is conducted using sound statistical techniques. What's more, savvy politicos know that not just any poll will do.