Friday, June 08, 2012

PolitiFact data: Republicans more dishonest than Democrats?

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PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter logo

For all the flak that fact-checking group PolitiFact gets from both the Left and Right, I think its brand of legalistic analysis is something our current political discourse sorely needs, even if it does tend to get caught up in the details from time to time in its effort to remain nonpartisan. But here’s something that even chief PolitiFact-hater Rachel Maddow can appreciate: One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers has compiled all the PolitiFact rulings on statements by partisan Democrats and Republicans and created nifty graphs representing how they match up, on average, in terms of truthfulness. The results are both interesting and entirely predictable.

Firstly, here’s how party leaders compare:

Bar chart: “Politifact rulings - Party Leaders” (Dem Leaders consistently more truthful than Rep Leaders by fair margin)
Repubs.: Mitt Romney, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry & Rick Santorum | Dems.: Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi & Hillary Clinton

If you think that contrast in numbers of smoldering trousers is clear enough, get a load of the distinction between pundits and commentators:

Bar chart: “Politifact rulings - Media Partisans” (Democratic pundits generally more truthful than Republican pundits by small margin)
Rep.: Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Erick Erickson, Sean Hannity, Bill Kristol, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Grover Norquist, Bill O’Reilly & Michael Savage | Dems.: Paul Begala, Donna Brazile, James Carville, Rachel Maddow, Bill Maher, Chris Matthews, Michael Moore, Lawrence O’Donnell, Keith Olbermann, Ed Schultz & Cenk Uygur

So that’s where the need for Fox News’s unlimited pants budget arises.

Finally, comparing the top two dogs, President Obama and assured-candidate Romney:

Bar chart: “Politifact Rulings - Presidential” (Obama mostly more truthful than Romney by varying margin)

Pretty much what you’d expect. President Obama isn’t devoid of deceit or frank ignorance, but as reflected in his own party, he lacks the bullshit gene that seems to be bred into Republicans by default.

Of course, all of this falls under the obligatory disclaimer that PolitiFact freely chooses which statements they analyze and that their vetting of both sides is far from exhaustive. But it doesn’t require a stretch of the imagination to note how closely these averaged statistics reflect the reality that’s observable in virtually every media outlet: that while Democrats and Republicans both tend to waffle a bit in the waist-deep waters of the bullshit pool, liberals have a clear tendency to keep relatively dry whilst conservatives appear to have a special knack for plunging head-first into the deep end.

At this point, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that maybe they just like it there.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)