Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A reader's take on our "Pants on Fire" research

Elizabeth MacInnis wrote:
Your premise here is that if there are an equal amount of fact checks and Republicans lie more, then there must be fact-checker bias. It couldn't possibly be that Republicans actually do lie more. That's an unobjective analysis. In my opinion, watching both sides closely in each election, Republicans do lie more, but not for the reason that you think. Democrats typically run on a platform of hope and ideas. It's much more subjective. Republicans tend to run on fear and attacks against other candidates (whether you like this or not, it's true). An attack on someone's record is more likely to be proven true or false. Watching all the debates, I consistently hear Republicans say things like "we've had a job killing president," when in reality (as of now) we've had 72 months of private-sector job growth, a record. With consistent, clearly false statements like this, Republicans are doing it to themselves. I believe we need a balanced system with both parties, but in many Americans' opinions (including mine), Republicans have become more and more outrageous in recent years (and no, that is not to say that Democrats are clear of any wrongdoing). The only way, in my opinion, to tame this is to hold them accountable - in fact-checking and votes. I hope both parties learn this lesson before their groups become too fractured.
Point by point:

"Your premise here is that if there are an equal amount of fact checks and Republicans lie more, then there must be fact-checker bias."

No, that's not our premise. Our premise (the one you seem to be talking about) is that if PolitiFact chose its stories only based on its editorial sense of whether the claim is true, then the results would be proportional. So Republicans could have five times more "false" ratings than Democrats but the distribution curve for both parties should appear similar. We don't think PolitiFact uses only its editorial sense in choosing stories.

The true central premise of the "Pants on Fire" research is that PolitiFact offers no objective means of distinguishing between its ratings of "False" and "Pants on Fire."

"It couldn't possibly be that Republicans actually do lie more. That's an unobjective analysis."

Can anyone explain to me how the "Pants on Fire" rating, with no apparent objective measure undergirding its use, contributes any empirical data toward the notion that Republicans lie more? Isn't that notion a sham?

"In my opinion, watching both sides closely in each election, Republicans do lie more, but not for the reason that you think. Democrats typically run on a platform of hope and ideas. It's much more subjective. Republicans tend to run on fear and attacks against other candidates (whether you like this or not, it's true)."

Summing up, then, MacInnis' opinion is true whether I like it or not? Is there any solid evidence supporting that opinion? Any at all?



(skipping some opinion that doesn't interest me so much)

"Watching all the debates, I consistently hear Republicans say things like "we've had a job killing president," when in reality (as of now) we've had 72 months of private-sector job growth, a record."

Remember when the Obama administration was lauding the helpful effects of the $900 billion stimulus bill? Employment was going down, but PolitiFact accepted arguments that unemployment would be even worse without the stimulus bill. Why is it that PolitiFact gives no consideration at all to a parallel principle with respect to claims of job-killing? That's not consistent, is it? We shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that inconsistent methods lead to good fact-checking, should we?

Elizabeth MacInnis, PolitiFact does fact-checking poorly. Don't be fooled.

PolitiFact's subjective "Pants on Fire" ratings tell us about PolitiFact, not about the entities receiving the subjective ratings.


 

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