The Quest for Truthiness: Study Conclusions

For this study I used PolitiFact.com as an existing data source. For Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, I looked at the 20 most recent ratings, as issued by PolitiFact, on statements each person had made.

Possible ratings are: True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False, and Pants on Fire.

To simplify things a bit I grouped the ratings as follows:

True: True, Mostly True
Half True: Half True
False: Mostly False, False, Pants On Fire

On now to the study results and conclusions.

Percentages of the grouped ratings by contestant.

When it comes to telling the truth, in a contest between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, Obama wins. This backs up my original hypothesis.

Interestingly, the results showed that the two men are an almost perfect inverse of each other in this category. Obama’s statements are true 40% of the time, Romney’s are 45% false. Obama is 25% false, Romney is 25% true. And they are both 30-35% half true.

However, it’s not that clear cut. There are several problems with my so-called study.

  1. The methodology of using on the 20 most recent ratings may he inherently flawed. “Most recent” may not be a representative sample of the whole.
  2. Using a single data source reduces confidence in the results. I used this approach for convenience. This was never intended to be a “scientific” study. It’s just me having a bit of fun. And, at that, it was highly effective.
  3. The neutrality of PolitiFact.com is disputed.

So take from this “study” what you will.

My conclusions: Truth is desirable and is something that should be a goal among political candidates. That said, I think this study shows it is a very elusive animal. Half truths and lies account for 60 to 75 percent of what these dudes have to say. That is unacceptable and should cause outrage among the voters.

Thanks to a comment from Bryan I learned that there are at least two other “fact checking” sites on the internet. The fact checking websites I know of are:

  • PolitiFact.com – PolitiFact is a project of the Tampa Bay Times to help you find the truth in American politics. Reporters and editors from the Times fact-check statements by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists and interest groups and rate them on our Truth-O-Meter.
  • FactCheck.org – FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The APPC was established by publisher and philanthropist Walter Annenberg to create a community of scholars within the University of Pennsylvania that would address public policy issues at the local, state and federal levels.
  • The Fact Checker – A blog offered by the Washington Post that searches for “the truth behind the rhetoric” and awards ratings in the form of Pinocchio units.

I didn’t research in depth but I did look at one specific statement. This was by chance when I visited FactCheck.org. Their most recent coverage looked at Romney’s statements regarding Obama’s so-called “apology tour.”

It should be noted that the “apology tour” was originally the brainchild of Karl Rove. The term was first used on April 23, 2009, in an opinion piece by Rove published in the Wall Street Journal. (Link.) Romney has been out rehashing this old and tired argument and even included it in his book, No Apology. (Who knew that Romney had a book out?) In his book Romney said that statements made by Obama on his tour were like “kindling” to “anti-American fires burning all across the globe.”

What was interesting is that all three fact checking websites are in agreement. PolitiFact awarded Romney a “pants on fire” rating for repeating Rove’s hyperbole. FactCheck.org doesn’t issue ratings or scores but concluded that any of Obama’s statements while on tour “rise to the level of an actual apology.” And The Fact Checker gave Romney their highest rating of four Pinocchios.

Setting aside the honesty of Romney in repeating Rove’s bullshit, there’s another concept at play here. I’ll call it American swagger. The machismo syndrome. The idea is that you never apologize, show weakness or criticize anything about your own country, no matter what. Is America perfect? No. But you had better goddamned always pretend that it is or we’ll eat you alive for breakfast. Never show weakness.

Besides being inaccurate and dishonest, I find that way of thinking a bit rigid and unrealistic. Obama tried to set a conciliatory tone since America’s standing in the world had been damaged by his predecessor. (I admit this is an opinion statement.) This is how FactCheck.org described what Obama did on his tour: “In some speeches, Obama was drawing a distinction between his policies and those of his predecessor, George W. Bush. In other instances, Obama appeared to be employing a bit of diplomacy, criticizing past actions of both the U.S. and the host nation, and calling for the two sides to move forward.”

And this is what the mean, evil and nasty Karl Rove called an “apology tour.” And it’s the narrative that Romney has chosen to embrace in his “clean” and higher-ground type of campaign.

As always, believe what you want. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. I just wish there was a more concerted effort to respect the truth on our national stage. It should matter how you win.

Click here for source data on Mitt Romney

Click here for source data on Barack Obama

7 responses

  1. An extremely well though out piece of work, Guru. I think I, and my fellow readers, would like to hear what Hyppo and Critter have to say on the subject.

    I haven’t written much on the political ramifications of lying…whenever anyone asks, I tell them to go read your blog. 🙂

    Like

    1. Thanks! I’ll ask Hyppo and Critter about it next time I bump into them. I’m sure they’ll have input.

      Truth matters. Without truth, everything else is just pure randomness or worse.

      I appreciate you sending truth seekers in this direction. The truth is I wish I could express myself better. There are so many big ideas floating around in my head but all that comes out is snark. I think I’m defective.

      Like

      1. Defective? Maybe. But I don’t think you can return yourself for a refund. 🙂

        Like

  2. Nice work. I generally rely on factcheck.org for this kind of thing, and fatcheck.org to make sure I’m eating right (and occasionally because of typos).

    The important thing to keep in mind is that those who will vote for any party they like just because the individual running has a haircut like their own don’t tend to do any research at all. These people make up the bulk of undetermined voters, so hair style really does matter for candidates. Another large block of undetermined voters are those who just don’t give a shit at all. They don’t research either, and when entering a voting booth, they simply spit in their hands, slap their hands together, and check whichever box isn’t covered with saliva. This is why the voting booths in battleground states have so much spit on them.

    Like

    1. You’re right. Things like age, height, appearance, “likeability” and speaking ability/presentation bring in a lot of votes. Factors like that do hold sway. And that’s a bit sound. A lot of Americans are busy, busy people. They may hear the sound bites and never did deeper.

      A lot of people judge the book solely on its cover.

      Thanks for the illumination on spit, too. I was curious about that.

      Like

  3. Well written!
    Recently, Romney said that he doesn’t care what fact-checkers say.
    Of course, Obama has done more than enough of his own truth bending too.

    Like

    1. That’s a good point. You’d think at some point they’d stop and care about speaking truth since they know every single word they utter is going to be put under a microscope. It makes it appear that they are delusional, narcissistic, or maybe even insane. “No one will ever know I was the one who ate the cookie if I keep telling them it wasn’t me.”

      Yeah, good luck with that.

      Of course both sides do it. I watched the Democratic convention last night and I clearly remember thinking, “Oh man, I hope the facts I’m hearing hold up.” Then I turned on my computer today to read stories about how they stretched the truth. Dammit.

      Like

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