Wednesday, July 30, 2014

More of PunditFact's PolitiMath

Occasionally we have fun looking at how the degree of inaccuracy impacts PolitiFact's "Truth-O-Meter" ratings.  Naturally the same evaluations apply to PunditFact, which uses the same rating system as well as, we suspect, a similarly radical inconsistency in applying the ratings.

Today we're looking at PunditFact's July 16, 2014 "Half True" rating of Cokie Roberts comparison of the murder risk in Honduras with that risk in New York City.

Roberts was way off with her figures, and PunditFact surmised Roberts may have conflated the yearly risk of being murdered in Honduras with the annual risk of being murdered in New York City:
(T)he chances of getting murdered in Honduras are 1 in 1100 per year compared to 1 in 20,000 per year in New York. Over a lifetime, the chances of being murdered in Honduras are 1 in 15, compared to 1 in 250 in New York.

That makes Honduras more dangerous but not nearly to the levels Roberts described.

What Rattner may have done, and what Roberts repeated, was compare figures approaching the chances of being murdered in New York in one year (1 in 20,000).
Acting charitably toward Roberts, the risk of getting murdered in Honduras is at most 18 times greater than in New York City.  Roberts' numbers imply the risk is about 1780 times greater than that (and we're doing Roberts a favor by rounding that figure down).

These figures mean Roberts exaggerated the difference in risk by about 9,789 percent, which is another way of saying her figures magnified the difference in risk by almost 100 times.

Throwing darts while blindfolded?
That's a high level of inaccuracy.

For comparison, PolitiFact rated President Obama "False" for overstating the ACA's effect on the number of people obtaining insurance for the first time by a mere 288 percent.  We thought that degree of exaggeration might qualify Obama for a "Pants on Fire" rating given PolitiFact's history.

Using PunditFact's application of principle, however, perhaps Obama should have received a "Half True" in recognition of his point that some people were getting insurance for the first time.

It goes without saying that Republicans tend to face an even tougher time receiving consideration of their underlying points.

Examples like this show us the "Truth-O-Meter" has little to do with fact checking and a great deal to do with editorializing.

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