Politifact is the première political fact checker in the United States. Winners of the Pulitzer Prize in journalism, they specialize in analyzing the statements made by United States politicians and checking to see whether the statements are factually correct. Every Politifact article is well researched and uses sources from a variety of political persuasions, meaning that they are a great resource for picking the truth out of politics.
With most of the candidates for the upcoming 2016 Presidential Elections already announced (besides a few holdouts that will most definitely run nonetheless) I thought that it would be interesting to find out how these candidates ranked using Politifact’s fact checking.
Politifact uses six rankings of truthfulness in descending order: True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire. In order to get a good average, I decided to give each of those rankings a certain amount of points. True gets 5 points, Mostly True 4 points and so on until you get to Pants of Fire, which gets zero points. If your pants are on fire, you truly are a loser. Then, dividing the total score by the amount of statements made, I was able to get a nice average score that would correspond to one of Politifacts rankings.
Now there are some flaws in this approach which are as follows:
- Politifact does not discuss whether the policies of the candidate are good or bad. So a candidate may use a truthful statement to back a terrible policy, but still gets full points. This little experiment can not show whether or not a politician has good ideas, just if they make factually correct statements.
- This approach also only works for statements that can be verified through research. For instance, there is obviously shady things happening with Hillary Clinton’s foreign donations, but since there is no verifiable proof either way, her statements about the subject do not get researched on Politifact. If they did, Politifact would be veering into conjecture. So my ranking system does not work for statements that can not be verified.
- Some candidates have not made many statements yet, so their scores might be slightly spewed. I will go back and redo this right before the primaries and caucus and see how things change. This is just a prelimiary look at what candidates have said up to this point.
Even with those limitations, I think that this research is pretty telling. I am wary of any politician who does not make factually correct statements to support their claims, so hopefully this will put everything in perspective.
To start, I wanted to show my technique with two “control” groups. Our current President and Facebook posts.
That is how Barack Obama’s statements break down.
Obama gets fact checked a lot because he is the President, so his net score comes out to 1,828 points. He has been check on 559 statements. Divide the net score by the amount of statements and we get an average score of 3.27. That puts Barack Obama comfortably in the Half True category.
Maybe we shouldn’t share as many of those Facebook memes….
Facebook gets a total score of 142, divided by 85 total statements giving us a total score of 1.67 landing Facebook memes and articles squarely in the False category. Meaning that they mostly lie to you.
See how this works? Now let’s get into the candidates stack up.
- Bernie Sanders: 59 total points for 18 statements. Score: 3.27 Half True
- Joe Biden: 209 total points for 69 statements. Score: 3.02 Half True
- Hillary Clinton: 362 total points for 107 statements. Score: 3.38 Half True
- Lincoln Chafee: 44 total points for 16 statements. Score: 2.75 Mostly False
- Jim Webb: 28 total points for 7 statements. Score: 4 Mostly True
- Martin O’Malley: 26 total points for 10 statements. Score: 2.6 Mostly False
- Jill Stein: Has not been fact checked. No data.
- Chris Christie: 278 total points for 89 statements. Score: 3.12 Half True
- Rand Paul: 116 total points for 39 statements. Score: 2.97 Mostly False
- George Pataki: Only one statement check. Insufficient data.
- John Kasich: 136 total points for 51 statements. Score: 2.66 Mostly False
- Carly Fiorina: 11 total points for 6 statements. Score: 1.83 False
- Ben Carson: Only three statement checks. Insufficient data.
- Donald Trump: 18 total points for 14 statements. Score: 1.28 False
- Scott Walker: 355 total points for 140 statements. Score: 2.53 Mostly False
- Jeb Bush: 133 total points for 39 statements. Score: 3.4 Half True
- Lindsey Graham: 36 total points for 12 statements. Score: 3 Half True
- Bobby Jindal: 20 total points for 6 statements. Score: 3.33 Half True
- Mike Huckabee: 90 total points for 34 statements. Score: 2.6 Mostly False
- Rick Perry: 422 total points for 164 statements. Score: 2.57 Mostly False
- Marco Rubio: 280 total points for 93 statements. Score: 3.01 Half True
- Rick Santorum: 134 total points for 56 statements. Score: 2.39 Mostly False
- Ted Cruz: 96 total points for 48 statements. Score: 2 Mostly False
- Gary Johnson: 24 total points for 8 statements. Score: 3 Half True
To end, here is some charts for comparison. Forgive me. I am not an Excel Wizard.
Overall scores (Democrats in blue, Republicans in red, Libertarians in orange):
Sorted by first name for convenience.
So how did your preferred candidate do? Are you shocked about how well some candidates performed over others? Does this change anything for you?