Many politicians stretch the truth or obfuscate to some degree or another — but does one party do it more than the other? According to a new study from the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University the answer is an unequivocal yes. Parsing 100 statements evaluated by the fact-checking website PolitiFact between Obama’s second inauguration and this month, the researchers found that claims from Republican officials were labeled as “false” or “pants on fire” by a 3-to-1 margin, compared to claims from Democratic officials. Conversely, half as many Republican claims were labeled “entirely true.”
“While Republicans see a credibility gap in the Obama administration, PolitiFact rates Republicans as the less credible party,” said CMPA president Robert Lichter in a press release. An earlier study from the CMPA found the website rated the Romney campaign worse than the Obama campaign during the 2012 election. Not surprisingly, Michele Bachmann is one of the most poorly rated politicians on PolitiFact.
Undoubtably, Republicans would blame this on “bias,” accusing the fact checkers of operating as little more than Democratic Party shills. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse famously declared last summer after the campaign got whacked for running nakedly false ads.
That’s obviously baloney, but there could be some real sampling error here in what claims PolitiFact chooses to score and other problems with its relatively small sample size — 100 claims over just four months. And there are plenty of legitimate problems with the rise of dedicated fact-checking outfits.
Still, PolitiFact does a pretty good job, and the numbers in the CMPA study are so overwhelming that a pattern is not hard to discern.