Wednesday, January 13, 2016

PolitiFact: Point? What underlying point?

In January 2012 PolitiFact's founding editor Bill Adair famously--at least we've tried to make it famous--assured PolitiFact's readers that the most important aspect of a numerical claim is the underlying point:
About a year ago, we realized we were ducking the underlying point of blame or credit, which was the crucial message. So we began rating those types of claims as compound statements. We not only checked whether the numbers were accurate, we checked whether economists believed an office holder's policies were much of a factor in the increase or decrease.
Today PolitiFact rated a State of the Union address claim from President Obama that the private sector created jobs every month since the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as "Obamacare," went into effect.

PolitiFact's rating? "True."

And what about that underlying argument, eh?
There’s room for argument over what the growth would have looked like absent the health care law, but Obama’s statistic is on target. We rate this claim True.
So ... these days it's like "Why mess up Obama's "True" rating by unnecessarily complicating things? We have a deadline!"

We don't mean to imply any kind of meaningful policy change since PolitiFact supposedly altered its policy under Adair. So far as we can tell, PolitiFact employs a subjective set of rules in reaching its "Truth-O-Meter" ratings. That subjectivity will always take precedence over whatever changes PolitiFact makes to its stated policies.

Note (Jan. 14, 2016): Be sure to check out Jeff D's follow up to this post, PolitiFact's Policy Plinko: What Rules Get Applied Today? Jeff gives some examples of the inconsistency talked about in the above post.

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