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As it applies to survey research, a marginal is a number “at the margins” (at the edge or perimeter) of a cross-tabulation table of two or more variables. Statistical software that is used by survey researchers, such as SAS and the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), routinely create cross-tabs with the marginals showing as the default setting.

Table 1 shows a cross-tabulation between two variables—educational attainment (Not High School Grad, High School Grad, College Grad) and belief in the existence of extraterrestrial life (Believe, Not Sure, Do Not Believe)—from a survey conducted in 1996. This table displays the number of respondents (i.e. absolute frequency counts) that fall into each of the conditions (cells) shown in the table. The marginals in the Total column show ...

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