Politifact: Republicans More Dishonest Than Democrats

Politifact: Republicans More Dishonest Than Democrats June 8, 2012

One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers compiled the data on Politifact’s findings on most of the leading Republican and Democratic leaders and media pundits, as well as President Obama and Mitt Romney, and found that the Republicans are dishonest — especially highly dishonest — significantly more often than Democrats.

Politifact offers six categories for claims made by politicians and pundits: true, mostly true, half true, mostly false, false and pants on fire. By nearly every measure, Republicans are found to be considerably more likely to be distorting the facts with their statements. Among all party leaders rated (Romney, Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Gingrich, Perry and Santorum for Republicans; Obama, Biden, Reid, Pelosi, and Hillary Clinton for the Democrats), the Republicans are more than 4 times more likely to be rated “pants on fire” (and that isn’t even including Michele Bachmann, who averages about one such statement per day). Democrats are higher on all the true-ish categories and lower on all the false-ish categories.

When it comes to partisan pundits (Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Erick Erickson, Sean Hannity, Bill Kristol, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Grover Norquist, Bill O’Reilly, and Michael Savage for the Republicans; Paul Begala, Donna Brazile, James Carville, Rachel Maddow, Bill Maher, Chris Matthews, Michael Moore, Lawrence O’Donnell, Keith Olbermann, Ed Shultz, and Cenk Uyger for the Democrats), the results are largely the same but not quite as divergent — until you get to the “pants on fire” category. Democrats are slightly more likely to have claims rated as true, about 2.5 times more likely to be “mostly true.” Republicans are slightly more likely to get “half true” and slightly more likely to be “mostly false,” while Democrats are slightly more likely to get a “false” rating. But when you get to “pants on fire,” Republicans are almost 6 times more likely to get that rating.

And when comparing Obama to Romney directly, the results are even more extreme. Obama is quite a bit more likely to be rated as true or mostly true, but slightly less likely to be half true. Romney is more likely to get a mostly false rating and they’re about even on the false category, but when it comes to “pants on fire,” Obama gets that rating around 1% of the time and Romney gets it almost 10% of the time.

No politician is entirely honest, of course; deceit just comes with the territory. But when it comes to telling lies, the Republicans tend to tell the real whoppers far more often.

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  • What’s interesting about this is that Politifact bends over backwards to be “fair and balanced” especially by interpreting Democratic statements as being less honest than they are, and also twisting Republican statements as being less dishonest. Even then, they STILL can’t quite hide the fact that Republicans are more inherently dishonest.

  • ManOutOfTime

    The thing the survey cannot tell us is the materiality of the statements being rated. So if a Democrat makes a Pants on Fire statement like “Romney destroyed more jobs than he created at Bain” – and I’m making that up, I don’t know if that’s really something they evaluated but it s the kind of thing they might rate as a lie even though my gut tells me it’s actually true – that is not equivalent to a Republican pants on fire like “Obama has yet to propose a jobs plan” – which, again, I have no idea if that’s one, and what little I’ve seen of Politifact ratings, they would probably rate that “Mostly False” because POTUS has not proposed a “jobs plan” as the GOP defines it, which is more tax cuts for rich assholes.

    But my general sense is that Democrats get dinged on issues and statements that are not “true” because they defy the Village narrative and/or are marginal statements and asides – like POTUS’s lame “private sector is fine” mis-step. Repugs are making serious, 180 degree from reality, totally made-up batshit statements day in and day out about things that actually matter. This analysis is just a few points off the conventional wisdom of “both sides do it,” and – without weighting the statements for substance – is really just kind of cooked to support the “GOP just plays a little more hardball” view.

  • Skip White

    Well, clearly this is all just nonsense from the godless socialist liberal media, trying to besmirch the goodly Republican party and the truthiness of their claims.

  • Whenever I think about wingnuts (especially fundies), there’s one Star Trek quote that comes to mind:

    “The reason I never tell the truth is because I don’t believe there is such a thing.”

    -Elim Garak

  • slc1

    Andrew Sullivan has several posts almost every day pointing out Mitt Romney’s lies. The problem is that the lame stream media does not.

  • Jordan Genso

    No politician is entirely honest, of course; deceit just comes with the territory.

    When I run for office (hopefully in 2014, as I couldn’t run this year), I am going to run as a politician who is completely honest. It will be a losing strategy, and I’m even going to be up front about that with people, but I want to show that you don’t have to be deceitful.

    Then the burden is on the voters to respond, and eventually begin to reward honesty. If we don’t get honest politicians that are willing to lose though, there will never be a public shift towards rewarding honesty.

  • Jordan Genso

    What’s unfortunate is that (as Improbable Joe mentioned in comment #1), Politifact has lost a lot of credibility when it comes to understanding the meaning of the word “fact”. It seems that even Politifact uses CDE (conservative doppleganger english), so that words can mean whatever they want. A completely true statement can become “half true”, or a blatant lie can be “mostly false”.

  • Unfortunately Politifact does not evaluate every statement by both Republicans and Democrats, and without any knowledge of their selection procedure for choosing statements (probably non-random), these results cannot tell us much, except that of the statements Politfact chooses to evaluate, Republicans tend to trend as more dishonest. They do seem to evaluate trending statements (i.e., those that have gained media attention, or are made in chain email) so if the media is following both parties fairly, this could be seen as a decent selection process, but not the best.

  • bobaho

    What I liked most about the post was the up-front statement that while the analysis is unbiased, the selection is from Polifact and therefore subject to bias. That is, Polifact doesn’t every statement just the ones, just ones that either appeal to them or make a enough impact. Truth is analysis, that is what is clearly missing in today’s political landscape.

    Now it would be interesting if one could randomize that selection and so perhaps make it just a bit more rigorous.

    The post afterward also presented possible good news, McMegan is going to the Daily Beast. Does this mean she won’t be polluting the pages of The Atlantic? One can only hope.

  • d cwilson

    Andrew Sullivan has several posts almost every day pointing out Mitt Romney’s lies. The problem is that the lame stream media does not.

    Romney tells so many lies it’s hard for anyone to keep up, much less find time in between the Kardashian pregnancy story and the interview with the cast of The Voice to air them.

  • John Horstman

    I echo Improbable Joe’s sentiments: this is especially shocking in that Politifact adopts Center-Right framing, with a heavy Liberal (as in Classical Liberalism), individualist, pro-capitalist bias.

    Actually, scratch that. It’s not surprising at all; I just realized I’m describing the mainline Democrats.

  • harold

    I echo Improbable Joe’s sentiments: this is especially shocking in that Politifact adopts Center-Right framing, with a heavy Liberal (as in Classical Liberalism), individualist, pro-capitalist bias.

    Actually, scratch that. It’s not surprising at all; I just realized I’m describing the mainline Democrats.

    No, the original comment by Improbable Joe was more correct.

    Politifact has a clear pro-Republican bias in the way they rate the statements that they choose to rate.

    Why that is, I don’t know. One ironic possibility is that they fear that rating in an unbiased manner will make them seem biased against the Republicans, and that they thus introduce a bias in order to create a false impression of being non-biased. Another is that they just love Republicans, but realize that they have to be a bit critical of Republicans to retain credibility. The market for right wing propaganda is saturated. Despite the Wingnut Welfare system for individuals, another right wing web site isn’t a very strong commercial proposal, so they need to differentiate themselves.

    As others have mentioned, they don’t randomly choose statements to rate. They don’t rate them blindly, either, but of course, that would be impossible – it’s almost always obvious whether a statement came from a Republican or Democrat. They could be choosing relatively worse statements from Republicans, but then partly neutralizing that bias by rating them more softly. More likely though, they also try to pick on Democrats in the statement selection process.

    It could be that they have sort of a George Will mentality – dicks who favor slapping school lunches out of the hands of hungry children but have a little too much old-fashioned intellectual honesty to ignore the craziness of the really crazy stuff.

    Or it could just be that they don’t give a damn but take it as easy on Republicans as they think they can, and pound as much on Democrats as they think they can, because they’re trying to market themselves as “centrist” and they can’t unless they rig the system, because a real centrist would totally reject the delusional, dishonest, extreme Republican Party.

    At any rate, I had independently come to the observation that they favor Republicans and pound on Democrats long before I saw that comment.

    I don’t like the Democrats – I think they suck. And they are the same as the Republicans on many things. It’s just that on every single thing where they are different, the Republicans are far worse.

  • In fairness you can’t really compare two or more people according to the scores they get in Politifact. They don’t use a random sampling procedure or anything like that, they just evaluate whatever someone said that happens to be generating buzz. Someone like Obama will naturally have more statements being evaluated than someone like Michelle Bachmann, and Bachmann will most likely be evaluated only when she says something crazy and stupid (which of course is common enough). Banal, truthful statements from any given politico are unlikely to be judged.

    That said, if anything I suspect that Politifact’s procedure tends to favor Republicans, and you hardly have to be a fact-checker to know that they lie their assess off. If they didn’t they’d never win an election. Favoring the rich and the corporate elite at the expense of everyone else doesn’t engender you to most voters, unless you convince them that it’s really in their best interests, and it’s the other side who are the real elitists. It’s the Big Lie that Politifact isn’t going to catch.

  • ManOutOfTime “…a ‘jobs plan’ as the GOP defines it, which is more tax cuts for rich assholes.”

    Politfact rates that as “half true”, because the GOP advocates tax cuts for rich people’s entire bodies.

  • Here, let me be specific: last year’s “Politifact Lie of the Year” was “Republicans voted to end Medicare”… which is more or less true, since House Republicans voted to replace Medicare with a privatized voucher system. It counted as a “lie” to Politifact because this completely different system, which would cover less people with worse private insurance and end the entire point of Medicare as an alternative to private insurance or nothing, would also be called “Medicare”.

    So, according to Politifact if you ask for a ham and cheese sandwich on a toasted roll with lettuce and extra mayo and a pickle on the side, and I take a dump and stick it between a ceiling tile and a softball mitt with vomit and battery acid and a pickle on the side and just call it a ham and cheese sandwich, then the statement “Joe didn’t give me a ham and cheese sandwich” could be Politifact’s lie of the year.

  • d cwilson

    Lincoln, I believe, said it a bit more eloquently:

    How many legs does a dog have?


    What if you call its tail a leg? Now how many legs does it have?

    Four. Just because you call a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.

  • If I were a Republican I would simplify all of this and start advertising that, as the second chart clearly shows on the second bar to the right, the Democrats make more FALSE statements than Republicans.

  • netamigo

    The real problem are the supporters accept and believe the lies they are fed. I blog on my local newspaper’s website a bit. We have an active group of Tea Party/religious right bloggers. They are shrill and fanatical but mostly politically weak at election time. They constantly cite right-wing websites as fact and proof when pressed for support. Such sites contain nothing but propaganda. It generally consists of unverifiable anecdotal stories. Statistics is a word that means left-wing lies to them. These people are so ignorant that I am astounded at times by what they say. It is practically impossible to reason or have an intelligent discussion with most of them. I find that many are older white males.

  • imthegenieicandoanything

    These people at Politifact are full of shit anyway. They are simply paid enablers pushing another version of 1% of the Democrats bad = 99% of the “Republicans”.

    They’ve been outed too many times as bending their pretend standards to look “fair” to the shits and villians on the “conservative” side, to protect their own interests. Consumer Reports, they ain’t.

    They can just fuck right off. Starting now.

  • Rip Steakface

    I think the whole point of Politifact, a center-right website, publishing an analysis saying that Republicans are more dishonest is so that so-called “centrists” and “moderates” in America (in other words, the far right of 40 years ago) will see they’re liars and that it’s coming from a non-leftist website.

    Not that it will matter. It will be called left-wing librul propaganda when it’s entirely too soft.

  • caseloweraz

    One interesting thing about these results is the huge imbalance in the “pants on fire” category. Republicans demonstrate the blazing britches much more than Democrats. That’s true of Party leaders and media partisans. It’s also true, for this campaign, of Obama and Romney.

    Also, I have a suspicion that PolitiFact is less biased in telling us who’s wearing those charring chinos.

    I would love to see a breakdown of who among the first two groups perpetrates those “PoF” statements.

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