Friday, November 20, 2015

PolitiFact gives Bernie Sanders "Mostly True" rating for false statement

When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said more than half of America's working blacks receive less than $15 per hour, PolitiFact investigated.

It turns out less than half of America's working blacks make less than $15 per hour:
(H)alf of African-American workers earned less than $15.60. So Sanders was close on this but exaggerated slightly. His claim is off by a little more than 4 percent.
PolitiFact found that half of African-American workers earned more than $15 per hour. That makes Sanders' claim false. PolitiFact said Sanders "exaggerated slightly." PolitiFact said he was "off by a little more than four percent." PolitiFact said he was "not far off."

Euphemisms aside, Sanders was wrong. But PolitiFact gave Sanders a "Mostly True" rating for his claim.

Here's a reminder of PolitiFact's definition for its "Mostly True" rating:
Mostly True – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.
Sanders' statement wasn't accurate. So how does it even begin to qualify for the "Mostly True" rating the way PolitiFact defines it?

The answer, dear reader, is that PolitiFact's definitions don't really mean anything. PolitiFact's "Star Chamber" panel of editors gives the rating they see fit to give. If the definitions conflict with that ruling then the definitions bend to the will of the editors.

Subjective-like.



Update 22:25 11/23/15: Added link to PF article in 4th graph - Jeff

5 comments:

  1. This is silly.

    It was a numerical claim - he was off by 4%, making him 96% correct if you please - i.e. mostly correct.

    Focusing on the statement in this very pedantic manner - that because he was 4% over (instead of 4%) under he is 100% wrong is disingenuous. Of course, the statement is logically false, but by focusing on that instead of the numbers is to deliberately miss the meaning of the claim.

    It's absurd to say someone is entirely wrong because they're off by less than 5%. It's entirely true that he was not far off. Would you say that he did not deserve a Mostly True rating if he was off by 2%? 1/2%?

    Is someone entirely wrong and a liar if their claimed figure is wrong by 4%? Or are they "Mostly Correct"?

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    1. "Unknown" (Ari Asulin?) wrote:

      **This is silly.**

      Thanks for the initial summary of your comment, but I could have figured that out for myself.

      **It was a numerical claim - he was off by 4%, making him 96% correct if you please - i.e. mostly correct.**

      That's certainly one way to look at it. But Ben Carson wasn't half right that no signers of the Declaration of Independence had experience in elected office if 40 percent of the signers had not held elective office, right? PolitiFact figured Carson was "Pants on Fire" wrong as soon as they figured out he was half wrong. And you agreed with that judgment, didn't you?

      It's fun to play heads you win tails the other guy loses, right? Don't let anybody level the playing field.

      **Focusing on the statement in this very pedantic manner - that because he was 4% over (instead of 4%) under he is 100% wrong is disingenuous.**

      It's disingenuous to put words in my mouth.

      I simply wrote that Sanders' statement was false. There's no disputing that, is there? That's why you need weasel words to supplement your argument.

      **Of course, the statement is logically false, but by focusing on that instead of the numbers is to deliberately miss the meaning of the claim.**

      If you'll pay closer attention to our article, you may notice that we had a focus of our own. Our focus is on the way PolitiFact disregards its own definitions. So, if a statement is "close" but false, PolitiFact can, at will, use a definition that supposedly only fits for true statements. And if somebody else says something true, as with the Mitt Romney Jeep ad from 2012, PolitiFact can call that "Pants on Fire" and "Lie of the Year." Lacking principles can be fun. It makes the game of politics easier to play and win.

      But what do you care? It benefits liberals. You're a liberal, so you've got every reason to want to see the game continue. Right?

      **It's absurd to say someone is entirely wrong because they're off by less than 5%.**

      I thought you said it was logically false? Did you change your mind or do you simply enjoy contradicting yourself? You think it's absurd to say that something logically false is false? For real?

      **It's entirely true that he was not far off.**

      Not necessarily. Remember, we're talking about a median figure in this fact check. If the distribution of incomes carries a bell-shaped curve, then missing the hourly wage target by a mere 4 percent can mean far fewer than half make less than $15 an hour. PolitiFact and you probably never thought of that since the liberal bias comes so easily that you don't even notice it. Or maybe you both thought of it and decided to dishonestly bury the truth. More likely the former, I hope.

      **Would you say that he did not deserve a Mostly True rating if he was off by 2%? 1/2%? **

      The game of figuring out whether PolitiFact's ratings are accurate doesn't interest me, because I think their rating system is terrible. And the problems start with having definitions that PolitiFact doesn't follow depending on its whims. And that was the point of our article, since you apparently missed it.

      **Is someone entirely wrong and a liar if their claimed figure is wrong by 4%? Or are they "Mostly Correct"?**

      You'll tell me you're quite familiar with the bifurcation fallacy, right?

      The statement is probably false (I don't trust PolitiFact's math on this in more ways than one). According to PolitiFact's math the statement is unquestionably false and PolitiFact ignored its definition of "Mostly True" to give Sanders that rating.

      That's just logic. Whine about it if you wish.

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    2. It's so amusing(not really) when leftists play word games. "**It's absurd to say someone is entirely wrong because they're off by less than 5%.**" No wonder regressives believe in the AGW scam.

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  2. I do see bias with politifact, but with backing the story with their rationale it makes it much easier to do what they are doing in the comments above. So, for that reason I still like what they do.

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    1. Scott,

      The inconsistency of PolitiFact's rating system is just one of PolitiFact's many problems. The background research is often flawed, which may undercut PolitiFact's explanation for its rating.

      See our first item from December 2015 for an example.

      http://www.politifactbias.com/2015/12/the-liberal-heartache-over-heartburn.html

      More on the same topic:

      http://www.politifactbias.com/2015/11/politifact-induced-heartburn.html

      Whether because of bias or ineptitude (or both), you really can't trust PolitiFact's fact checks.

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