Monday, September 26, 2016

Krugman: PolitiFact "overwhelmingly in the ballpark"

Great news for PolitiFact! Luminous lefty economist Paul Krugman has given PolitiFact his sort-of seal of approval (bold emphasis added):
PolitiFact has examined 258 Trump statements and 255 Clinton statements and classified them on a scale ranging from “True” to “Pants on Fire.” One might quibble with some of the judgments, but they’re overwhelmingly in the ballpark.
 At PolitiFact Bias, we wonder what it means for Krugman to declare that PolitiFact's ratings of Clinton and Trump are overwhelmingly in the ballpark.

Did Krugman double-check all of PolitiFact's research on those 513 fact checks and find the vast majority "in the ballpark"?

We tend to doubt it. Who has time to double-check that many fact checks if it's not a full time job?

Did Krugman simply judge the fact checks were "in the ballpark" based on his own vast store of political knowledge?

That option seems more likely. But isn't that type of judgment particularly prone to confirmation bias?

That's an obvious yes, right?

PolitiFact, of course, bills itself as nonpartisan. But what solid evidence do we have of PolitiFact's nonpartisanship? Is it reassuring, for example, that founding PolitiFact editor Bill Adair declines to reveal his politics while having his picture taken in his office with a life-sized cardboard President Obama looking on from the background?

PolitiFact's credibility rests on the plausibility of its claim to nonpartisanship. Krugman endorsements don't help that much. The Krugman endorsement might be expected if PolitiFact leans left, thanks to confirmation bias. We encourage readers to consider what would qualify as good evidence of nonpartisanship and whether PolitiFact delivers the goods.

As for whether PolitiFact is "in the ballpark" with its ratings--that can only come from scientific study designed for that purpose. If Krugman ever produces such a study, we will consider his claims based on the merits.

Until then, pfft. Krugman citing PolitiFact's ratings to bolster a pro-Clinton argument, even to the point of suggesting PolitiFact's ratings will serve as a predictor of the debate results (!) only further discredits Krugman.

Correction Sept. 27, 2016: Added the name of PolitiFact's founding editor, Bill Adair. Adair's name was omitted in the first published version.

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