Study: Fact-Checkers Disagree on Who Lies Most
October 22, 2012
Contact: Katy Davis
Study: Politifact Hits GOP, But Wash Post Faults Both Parties
The two leading media fact-checkers don’t agree on which political party bends the truth more, according to a new study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) at George Mason University and Chapman University. The study finds that PolitiFact.com rates Republican claims as false twice as often as Democratic claims, while the Washington Post Fact Checker column faults the two parties about equally.
According to CMPA President Dr Robert Lichter, “This study shows that media fact-checking involves subjective judgments, just like any other form of journalism. Voters must still decide for themselves which ‘facts’ they trust.”
The study examined 152 election-related statements involving factual claims by the presidential candidates, their surrogates, and campaign ads fact-checked by PolitiFact.com and the Washington Post Fact Checker from July 1 to September 11.
PolitiFact rated Democratic claims as “mostly true” or “entirely true” about twice as often as Republican statements — 42% true ratings for Democrats vs. 20% for Republicans.
Conversely, claims by Republicans were rated as entirely false about twice as often as Democratic claims – 29% false ratings for GOP statements vs. 15% false ratings for Democrats. (This includes categories labeled “false” and “pants on fire.”)
By contrast, on a scale of zero to four Pinocchios, the Washington Post Fact Checker rated Democrats as more likely than Republicans to make both the most truthful and the least truthful claims:
26% of Democratic claims were awarded zero or one Pinocchio (the most truthful categories), compared to 16% of Republican claims. But 61% of Democratic statements also received three or four Pinocchios (the least truthful categories), compared to 48% of Republican statements.
Overall, Democratic claims averaged 2.52. Pinocchios, almost identical to the 2.48 average for GOP claims analyzed by the Washington Post Fact Checker.At Politifact.com. On a scale from 1 (true) to 6 (pants on fire), Republicans averaged 2.56, compared to 1.77 for Democrats.
Example of different ratings of same statement:
“This president has been outsourcing a good deal of American jobs himself by putting money into energy companies, solar and wind energy companies that end up making their products outside the United States.” — Mitt Romney, July 10, 2012
Washington Post Fact Checker Rating: Three Pinocchios on a zero to four scale (“Significant factual errors and/or obvious contradictions”) PolitiFact.com Rating: Half-True (below Mostly False, False, and Pants on Fire!)
Note: The PolitiFact findings cited here have been previously released. A detailed explanation of the study’s methods can be seen at cmpa.gmu.edu.
The Center for Media and Public Affairs is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization, which is affiliated with George Mason University. It has monitored every presidential election and every new administration since 1988 using the same methodology. For CMPA findings on the Obama administration see: http://cmpa.gmu.edu/studies_political_obama.html