Research

"Bias in PolitiFact's ratings:  Pants on Fire vs. False" Aug. 1, 2012

Research update (Updated)  Nov. 6, 2012

Research Update: PolitiFact in 2012  Feb. 1, 2013

Research update: The "Pants on Fire" bias in 2013, plus analysis of the PolitiFact states, Jan. 22, 2014

PolitiFact, percent error, partisanship  May 28, 2014

The "Pants on Fire" bias update for 2014 Jan. 2, 2015

PunditFact's "Pants on Fire" bias, 2014 Jan 19, 2015

PolitiFact's "Pants on Fire" bias, 2015 update Jan 20, 2016

The 2015 "Pants on Fire" bias for PunditFact and the PolitiFact states

23 comments:

  1. If you think Politifacts are bias. Can you please build a website that isn't? What the world needs is facts. You are claiming The facts from Politifacts are Bias. If you have better information you would be doing America a favor.

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    1. My attempt at a better mousetrap is Zebra Fact Check, now into its second year of operation.

      http://www.zebrafactcheck.com/

      No website is entirely free of bias. But PolitiFact is barely one rung above Media Matters on the ladder of objectivity.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Delete
    2. Ande,

      If your idolization of "Anonymous" is limited to the call for better information, then good.

      If, on the other hand, that idolization has to do with any of the utter nonsense "Anonymous" posted subsequently, then you could do a better job picking a hero.

      Delete
  2. How can you call any of this research? Your conclusion basically states that conservatives do lie more, but politifact is biased because it doesn't show liberals lying as much. This article was an opinion peice and in no way qualifies as research.

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    1. Quite the opposite.The only thing that makes science a problem for conservatives is the fact the liberals believe that scientific conclusions and data are open to interpretation and are only relevant if the conclusions or data fit their narrative, agenda or opinion. I really wish you liberals could understand this.

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  3. It's research because we objectively collected data and use the data to suggest reasonable conclusions. One of our conclusions is not that conservatives do lie more. That idea, in fact, isn't even in the data, given the selection bias problem.

    You may have the erroneous idea in your head that by "Pants on Fire" PolitiFact is saying a politician is lying. But that's not how the rating is defined, and PolitiFact, as our research shows does not use that concept in applying the rating. Going by PolitiFact's stated definition (which was found by doing research), the only difference between "False" and "Pants on Fire" is that the latter statements are "ridiculous" in addition to being false.

    All I can suggest is that you start from the ground up, looking up the word "research" and then re-reading the research we've posted to try to understand what we've done. If you'd like to make a case based on evidence that we're not doing research, then we'd love to hear it. But your opinion that it isn't research has no grounding in the truth.

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  4. Taken from your article, "Do Republicans lie more? Perhaps, but the proportion of “Pants on Fire” ratings should prove about the same for each party regardless of which party lies more if subjective impressions determine the rating." Proves my point entirely. Your sole "argument" is that even though republicans do lie more there should be an even number of "Pants on Fire" rating, which as you stated is slightly subjective. The "false" rating directly before "pants on fire" is not subjective and you do not argue the validity of those classifications. So you are saying that Republicans do in fact lie more and that Politifacts is slightly harsher on the Republican lies coming from chain e-mails, but not on any other source of Repblican fibbery, "The percentages for groups A and B varied only slightly. For group A, Republicans found making false statements received a “Pants on Fire” rating 28.57% of the time and Democrats 16.42 . For group B the percentages were 28.23% and 15.88%, respectively--a very close match. Group C reflected the expected distortion from unreliable chain email claims."
    The reason I call this non-research is you did not evaluate any confounding variables nor did you no anything to prevent them from interfering with your "data," thus all you have are assumptions and opinions based on nothing of relevancy. Oh, and you made up this "PoF bias" number.
    Just to help you out here is the definition of research, "The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions." Please follow it next time.

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  5. "Proves my point entirely."

    It proves you don't comprehend what you're reading.

    We don't say Republicans lie more. We say it's a possibility ("Perhaps").

    We don't say that the "Pants on Fire" rating is "slightly subjective." We say that PolitiFact's description paints it as entirely subjective, and we could find no clear evidence to doubt PolitiFact's own descriptions. And we put some effort into that.

    Nor does it follow that the "false" rating is not subjective. All we know from the "false" rating is that PolitiFact thinks the rating is false. We don't argue the validity because it isn't required to serve the point of our research, and you're not entitled to assume we accept the accuracy of PolitiFact's "False" ratings (fallacy of appeal to silence).

    We're not saying PolitiFact's bias is limited to the "Pants on Fire" bias. In the research on the PoF bias we simply limited our examination of bias to that aspect of PF's bias. In fact, the paper you referenced talks about the potential for PF to apply a compensatory bias.

    We obviously considered confounding variables, such as hidden judgment criteria, and our conclusions perfectly fit the evidence.

    In short, your assessment is marvelous in its carelessness. It's fitting you comment anonymously.

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  6. Where in your "research" do you state how you addressed confoundin variables? Merely stating you did does not fit the criteria. In order for something to be considered research it needs to be concerned with validity or else it's just an opinion peice with numbers. I know legitimate science is the bane of most conservatives.

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  7. I said we considered confounding variables and gave an example. You should have looked for the example I gave you and worked from there. Next I told you that our conclusions fit the evidence. That's your cue to find a conclusion that we drew that wouldn't be true if one of your confounding variables wasn't accounted for.

    How do you define "valid" if it means something other than drawing conclusions that fit the evidence?

    "I know legitimate science is the bane of most conservatives"

    Right. And don't you just hate it when they engage in ad hominem attacks as they invariably do?

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  8. If you feel that my noting the non- empirical nature of research is a personal attack on you then so be it. It is easy to establish another cause for your "findings," conservative robo emails were typically more fictitious and created lies that we're more ridiculous than liberals. This is a claim your opinion piece can't rule out, thus you obviously did not control for confounds.

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  9. "If you feel that my noting the non- empirical nature of research is a personal attack on you then so be it."

    Huh? If you think "I know legitimate science is the bane of most conservatives" is you noting the non-empirical nature of our research then so be it. That's quite a stretch, to say the least.

    "It is easy to establish another cause for your "findings," conservative robo emails were typically more fictitious and created lies that we're more ridiculous than liberals."

    We classified email claims separately from claims related to members or representatives of the political parties. So you apparently didn't read the research very carefully before judging it. It's likely you don't know what our findings are, either. Next time quote the finding and the confounding variable that would undermine it. We'll give you a second chance.

    "This is a claim your opinion piece can't rule out, thus you obviously did not control for confounds."

    So if we kept the email claims separate and drew our conclusions from a narrower set of data then we did not control for the extreme nature of email claims? Seriously?

    You get two more chances. If you can't improve your performance markedly we won't host your further comments. You'll have to prove to us you're not paid by the Koch brothers to make liberals look silly.

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  10. We're tightening the restrictions on comments. You'll still get your two chances if you register. But no more total access for anonymous hackery.

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  11. The main premise of your 'research' is unproved and unreasoned, but merely asserted as an axiom:
    "We already know what to expect...if the criteria for applying 'pants on fire' ratings are subjective. The percentage of Democrats so rated will approximate the percentage of Republicans with the same rating" There is no proof, much less an argument that Democrats are as ridiculous as Republicans.
    Also, by attempting to compare the ratings, you have conflated their meanings. In a sample of false ratings and POF ratings, ALL ARE FALSE. Therefore, it's nonsense to ask "who lies more?"; they are all lying 100% of the time.
    What you have proved is:
    Democrats tell lies.
    Republicans tell ridiculous lies.

    (at least, you've 'proved' this as much as you've 'proved' anything)
    (you certainly HAVEN'T proved anything about politifact bias)

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    1. (Jeff did a fine job with his reply, so this will largely rehash what he wrote)

      "Unknown" (probably Ari Asulin, for it fits well with his nonsensical style) wrote:

      **There is no proof, much less an argument that Democrats are as ridiculous as Republicans.**

      The axiom is that a subjective criterion can't provide any proof that any false statement is more ridiculous than any other false statement, regardless of the ideology of the person making the statement.

      As such, the premise of your criticism is unproved and unreasoned.

      **Also, by attempting to compare the ratings, you have conflated their meanings. In a sample of false ratings and POF ratings, ALL ARE FALSE. Therefore, it's nonsense to ask "who lies more?"; they are all lying 100% of the time.**

      Our comparison of the numbers of ratings does not conflate the ratings. Of course "Pants on Fire" ratings and "False" ratings are both false. Our research states that very clearly, as Jeff pointed out. What our research stresses is that it is PolitiFact that somehow finds a difference between merely false statements and ridiculously false statements. But there's no apparent objective difference between the two. If there is no objective difference then the difference is subjective and the "Pants on Fire" ratings PolitiFact gives are the equivalent of an opinion poll (Do you --politifact writer-- find this false statement ridiculous?).

      **What you have proved is:
      Democrats tell lies.
      Republicans tell ridiculous lies.**

      So you think there's proof that Republicans are more ridiculous than Democrats? Is this an objective proof or a subjective proof? If the former, what is the nature of that objective proof?

      Delete
  12. "The main premise of your 'research' is unproved and unreasoned"

    As I understand it, the premise of Bryan's research is that, by PolitiFact's own definition, the only difference between a False rating and a Pants on Fire rating is the PoF is "ridiculously" false. As "ridiculous" is a subjective term, it sheds light on what PolitiFact editors find "ridiculous" in addition to being false.

    "There is no proof, much less an argument that Democrats are as ridiculous as Republicans."

    Bryan doesn't claim otherwise. Alternatively, there is no proof that Republicans are as ridiculous as Democrats, unless of course you can provide us with the objective criteria for determining what is "ridiculous."

    "In a sample of false ratings and POF ratings, ALL ARE FALSE."

    Yes. We said that. In fact it's a critical point in our research. It's also worth pointing out that we're giving PolitiFact the benefit of the doubt by assuming the claims they rated are indeed False. Bryan simply quantifies the amount of False claims PolitiFact editors deem "ridiculously false" as opposed to simply "false."

    "Therefore, it's nonsense to ask "who lies more?"; they are all lying 100% of the time."

    We don't ask "who lies more?" We acknowledge on several occasions that both False and PoF ratings are false. That's kinda the point.

    "What you have proved is:
    Democrats tell lies.
    Republicans tell ridiculous lies."

    Not sure how we've done that, but that is exactly what PolitiFact is claiming they've done. This is where your providing an objective criteria for determining what is ridiculous would be very helpful. We'll wait.

    (The research is Bryan's project, so if I've misrepresented it in this comment then the error is mine, and I suspect he'll respond soon.)

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  13. 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.

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    1. Elizabeth MacInnis, we've turned your comment into a post.

      http://www.politifactbias.com/2016/04/a-readers-take-on-our-pants-on-fire.html

      Thanks for visiting.

      Delete
  14. I stumbled across this site while searching for a credible counterpoint / gut-check to PolitiFact. Sadly I've found so far that, excepting Bryan White, the anti-PolitiFact perspectives are offered by people hiding behind anonymity and offering no credentials supporting their qualification to weigh-in with any authority.

    Obviously, I too am hiding behind anonymity but I also offer no perspective on the validity of PolitiFact's analyses. In fact, I came here looking for countervailing analyses so that I might judge for myself the extent to which I can or can't rely on PolitiFact's analyses. Am now heading over to zebrafactcheck hoping to find a more useful counterbalance to PolitiFact.

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  15. Rob R, thanks for visiting.

    **the anti-PolitiFact perspectives are offered by people hiding behind anonymity and offering no credentials supporting their qualification to weigh-in with any authority.**

    Seriously, Rob, what credentials does one need to criticize journalists? While I have a B.A. in journalism, that isn't what gives my criticism its clout. That clout ultimately comes from solid research and reasoning. If the writing doesn't have that, feel free to ignore all of our claims to PhDs and Nobel Prizes.

    **I came here looking for countervailing analyses so that I might judge for myself the extent to which I can or can't rely on PolitiFact's analyses.**

    PolitiFact's not always wrong, so it goes a bit to far to say that you can't trust them at all. But you can get a scholarly overview of the problems with the approach journalists take to fact-checking by reading Joe Uscinski's "The Epistemology of Fact Checking."

    Uscinski makes many of the same criticisms that we've made here over the years, and he's got letters after his name for people who demand that sort of thing.

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08913811.2013.843872

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    1. Hi Bryan -- For me, given the vast number of bloggers, the sharing of credentials offers at least a coarse filter. I commend you for sharing your name and credentials. Like it or not, they do give you enough "cred" in my eyes to justify spending some time reading/considering your perspective.

      My quibble is with those courageous souls who hide behind anonymous screen names and presume to clutter my limited bandwidth (and screen space!) with authoritatively parroted opinions that may sound good to them but to which they have not given much (any?) critical thought, much less open-mindedly researched opposing viewpoints from outside of their "bubble."

      Thanks for aiming me at "The Epistemology of Fact Checking." Sounds [potentially a bit dry but] interesting.

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    2. The paper's not quite as dry as it sounds. If you have trouble accessing it, I have reviews of quite a few papers on fact-checking (including that one) posted at Zebra Fact Check. They're under the "Commentary" tab.

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