Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Research update (Updated)

On August 1, PolitiFact Bias published research showing partisan bias in the application of the "Pants on Fire" rating.  The research paper argues that PolitiFact's failure to offer an objective criterion separating "Pants on Fire" from "False" makes it a potentially good indicator for ideological bias.

The research paper looked at collected "False" and "Pants on Fire" ratings from PolitiFact's beginning in 2007 through the end of 2011.  We've continued to collect the data and perform the bias calculations.

[See Update and Correction below] GOP claims were 3.2 times more likely to receive PolitiFact's harshest and apparently subjectively determined rating than those coming from the Democratic Party.  Our research expresses the discrepancy as a PoF Bias number, 3.21 in this case.

Here's a preview of the 2012 PoF numbers from our research on PolitiFact's state operations.

  • Florida  1.25
  • Georgia  6.50
  • New Jersey  2.41
  • Ohio  1.33
  • Oregon  2.00
  • Rhode Island 1.64
  • Tennessee  2.56
  • Texas  2.72
  • Virginia   1.83
  • Wisconsin  1.57

Yes, the blue numbers indicate a bias against Democrats in the application of "Pants on Fire" ratings.  But don't go jumping to conclusions.  Wait for the publication of our next research project (unless you figure it out on your own).

Update and Correction 1/31/2013:  While verifying a year-end summary of the research data, I found a "Pants on Fire" claim from President Obama I had overlooked from early January in 2011.  The PoF Bias number, after adding in the missing rating, is 2.25 rather than 3.21.  The graph is wrong.  The blue column should come up a tad over 14 percent.

The revised figure continues to show a marked bias against Republicans, and the high impact of just one more "Pants on Fire" rating on the Democrat side shows how the low number of ratings for Democrats makes the proportions sensitive to minor changes.  That fact makes the relatively consistent trend year-by-year in favor of Democrats (following 2007) all the more telling.

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