Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sharks & Alligators

I spent time at Zebra Fact Check last week dissecting PolitiFact Florida's effort to fact check whether the first 10 years of Florida's concealed-carry gun law produced twice as many alligator attacks as attacks by concealed-carry permit holders.

One aspect of that study deserves special attention here at PolitiFact Bias.

PolitiFact Florida couldn't find the information it needed to check the alligator claim. But it found a couple of experts who thought it was silly to compare gun attacks to alligator attacks, and the supposed silliness of the comparison found its way into the "Mostly False" rating. Health News Florida reviewed the rating with PolitiFact's Amy Hollyfield:
Since there's no source of comprehensive data for attacks by gun license holders, experts told PolitiFact Florida that it’s not very meaningful to compare alligator bites to the misuse of firearms.

“One of them told us it’s more than silly to compare bites to bullets,” Hollyfield said.
We couldn't avoid thinking about PolitiFact Florida's 2012 fact check of whether shark attacks outnumber cases of voter fraud. PolitiFact chose the measure: "cases" considered for prosecution by the state of Florida instead of "cases" as individual instances of fraud.

PolitiFact Florida admitted its measure was imperfect:
While the shark attack figures are cut and dry (sorry!), the voter fraud numbers are not. There could be more cases than we know about, involving more people. The numbers may not represent total voter fraud cases, as those could be handled by local supervisors and state attorneys.
Without considering the silliness of comparing voter fraud to shark attack and undeterred by the lack of good data on voter fraud, PolitiFact Florida ruled it "Mostly True" that shark attacks occur more frequently than voter fraud.

Obviously inconsistent? Yeah. Coincidentally, the point liberals like, that voter fraud occurs rarely, gets a pass. The claim conservatives like, that concealed-carry permit holders very rarely use their guns to attack others, gets the harsh rating.

That's PolitiFact.  That's bias.

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