Monday, October 28, 2013

PolitiFact: We're not social scientists, but you sure can tell plenty about a candidate from our 'candidate report cards'

PFB editor Jeff D. took notice that new PolitiFact editor Angie Drobnic Holan recently affirmed PolitiFact's minimalist admission of its practice of selection bias (bold emphasis added):
PolitiFact's goal is not to end inaccuracy in political discourse, just to point it out for voters' information, Holan says. And the site doesn't cover everything politicians say, either in ads or interviews. "We're journalists. We pick statements based on what we think is most newsworthy,'' Holan says. "We fact check things that make people go 'Hmmm, I wonder if that's true.''
Not at all to our surprise, PolitiFact's announcement of its "PolitiPundit" project, dedicated to fact checking media figures and pundits the PolitiFact way, reiterates PolitiFact's intent to keep right on publishing "report cards" for the people and organizations it fact checks. 

It's the same old mixed message from PolitiFact:  No, it doesn't use basic scientific methods in choosing its stories.  Yes, readers should treat PolitiFact's "report cards" as though PolitiFact uses scientific methods.

"Meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss."
--The Who


  1. PolitiFact is a assemblage of opinion writers who live in a world ruled by philosophy, not science. Report cards, truth-o-meter ratings, and other phony metrics may fool some, but their non-scientific nature is evident when given even a cursory inspection. The trouble is that they are successful gimmicks in PolitiFact's self-promotion.

    The real problem is those who treat the gimmicks as actual metrics. The linked USA Today article describes a working paper by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler that treats the PolitiFact Truth-o-meter as if it were actually a device that measures the truth. It's far more troublesome to see that view advanced by academics than it is by PolitiFact's editor.

  2. Nyhan and Reifler haven't escaped my attention:

    I address their new working paper here:

    Within another 24 hours I expect to publish another review of nonsense research connected to PolitiFact.

    It's good for a few laughs:


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