Saturday, June 6, 2015

PolitiFact RI presents Lincoln Chafee's "scorecard"

Do PolitiFact's "report cards" mislead?

You betcha!

PolitiFact Rhode Island gave us former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee's scorecard on June 3, 2015. As is often the case, the PolitiFact story highlighting the "scorecard" omitted any caution to readers that the results represent nothing like a social science experiment. And the story includes suggestive sentence pairings like this one (bold emphasis added):
His campaign promises showed a greater measure of constancy. Among the promises we rated, the Linc-O-Meter showed a grinning governor half the time, with 16 of 32 promises kept.
With the sentence we emphasized, PolitiFact Rhode Island implies for its readers that its "scorecard" allows readers to generalize about Chafee's campaign promises, not just the ones PolitiFact RI subjected to its brand of fact-checking.

With almost a full day's worth of comments up at PolitiFact's Facebook page (27), we already have a few that seem to show reader confusion.

"The data base is simply too small to be useful."

With a larger database the story selection process should produce a parallel objection.

"Guess telling the truth is not his strong suit."

"That looks like a terrible set of ratings. Easily poor enough for me to disqualify him as a candidate."

"At least he doesn't have any Pants on Fire."

PolitiFact admits the "report cards" do not represent a social science experiment, albeit their admission is not conspicuous enough to keep readers from making comments such as the above. People see the graph and many believe it shows some type of general truthfulness profile.

PolitiFact refuses to see the extent to which the "report cards" mislead readers, for whatever reason.

Bias, maybe?

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