Your Times Poll headline "Hart Quickly Emerges as Top Democratic Candidate" (Part I, Dec. 17) seems to me to be reaching beyond what your evidence can bear. From the data you report, even Sen. Paul Simon may have Hart beaten. Your story does not appear to recognize this possibility.
You report a margin of error of 7%. This means that if you drew and surveyed a similar sample from the same population the results could vary by plus or minus 7 percentage points.
You report Gary Hart being supported for his party's nomination by 21% of the Democrats interviewed, followed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson at 13% and Gov. Michael Dukakis at 12%.
The finding you report for Gary Hart could, in theory, vary down to 14% (21 less 7). Jackson's 13% could, at the same time, vary up to 20% (13 plus 7). Dukakis' result could also vary up to 19%. Even Paul Simon (10 plus 7) and Sen. Albert Gore (9 plus 7), can find solace in your poll.