|02-16-2011, 06:35 AM||#1|
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Join Date: Dec 2002
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PolitiFact Rates Republican Statements as False at 3 Times the Rate of Democrats
Selection Bias? PolitiFact Rates Republican Statements as False at 3 Times the Rate of Democrats
PolitiFact assigns "Pants on Fire" or "False" ratings to 39 percent of Republican statements compared to just 12 percent of Democrats since January 2010
PolitiFact, the high profile political fact-checking operation at the St. Petersburg Times, has been criticized by those on the right from time to time for alleged bias in its grading of statements made by political figures and organizations.
The organization (and now its more than a half dozen state offshoots) grades statements made by politicians, pundits, reporters, interest groups, and even the occasional comedian (anyone 'driving the political discourse') on a six point "Truth-O-Meter" scale: True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True, False, and Pants On Fire for "ridiculously" false claims.
But although PolitiFact provides a blueprint as to how statements are rated, it does not detail how statements are selected.
For while there is no doubt members of both political parties make numerous factual as well as inaccurate statements - and everything in between - there remains a fundamental question of which statements (by which politicians) are targeted for analysis in the first place.
A Smart Politics content analysis of more than 500 PolitiFact stories from January 2010 through January 2011 finds that current and former Republican officeholders have been assigned substantially harsher grades by the news organization than their Democratic counterparts.
In total, 74 of the 98 statements by political figures judged "false" or "pants on fire" over the last 13 months were given to Republicans, or 76 percent, compared to just 22 statements for Democrats (22 percent).
First, it should be acknowledged that the number of public officials subjected to PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter lens from each party is fairly even during the period under analysis.
Of the 511 statements put through the Truth-O-Meter test from January 1, 2010 through January 31, 2011, PolitiFact devoted 74 percent of its attention to current and former political officeholders and elected officials (379 statements), 17 percent to ideological organizations and individuals not holding political office (85 statements), and 9 percent to other groups and individuals without a partisan or ideological agenda (28 statements). Another 20 statements came from chain e-mails, public opinion polls, bumper stickers, or "bloggers" generally (4 percent).
For those current or former political officeholders, PolitiFact has generally devoted an equal amount of time analyzing Republicans (191 statements, 50.4 percent) as they have Democrats (179 stories, 47.2 percent), with a handful of stories tracking statements by independents (9 stories, 2.4 percent).
Assuming for the purposes of this report that the grades assigned by PolitiFact are fair (though some would challenge this assumption), there has nonetheless been a great discrepancy regarding which political parties' officials and officeholders receive the top ratings and those that are accused of not telling the truth.
Republican statements were graded in the dreaded "false" and "pants on fire" categories 39 percent of the time, compared to just 12 percent for statements made by Democrats.
That means a supermajority of falsehoods documented by PolitiFact over the last year - 76 percent - were attributed to Republicans, with just 22 percent of such statements coming from Democrats.
As a consequence, Democrats have therefore been presented as much more truthful - with over 75 percent of statements receiving the top three grades of True (16 percent), Mostly True (27 percent), or Half True (33 percent).
Less than half of Republican statements graded by PolitiFact were regarded as half truths or better - just 90 out of 191 (47 percent).
Republicans were also assigned a larger percentage of "Barely True" statements than Democrats, bringing the tally of all falsehoods or near falsehoods in the bottom three categories to 52.9 percent of Republican statements to just 24.6 percent of those made by Democrats.
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