Saturday, October 6, 2012

Who Is Telling the Truth?


 
Politifact Truth Ratings For Obama, Romney, Biden and Ryan

TRUE

Mostly True

Half-True

Mostly False

FALSE

Pants on Fire

Ratio
True:False

Positive
Truth Factor

No

%

No

%

No

%

No

%

No

%

No

%

Obama

95

22

101

24

112

26

51

12

62

15

6

1

2.57:1

44

Romney

24

16

25

14

50

27

32

17

31

17

16

9

1.33:1

14

Biden

11

19

14

24

14

24

9

15

8

14

3

5

1.97:1

33

Ryan

3

12

5

20

6

24

7

28

2

8

2

8

1.27:1

12

 
 
 
 
 
 
 



It would be nice if we didn’t have to ask the question, “Who is telling the truth.” Unfortunately it is an essential question if one is to understand the choices before them in the current Presidential Election.

The sad thing is that none of the candidates are telling the truth all the time. But some do better than others. I thought it might be instructive to look at the truth rankings of the two Presidential candidates and their running mates generated by Politifact.org. Their system of ranking makes it easy to see, at a glance how any particular person is doing.

The number of fact statements being rated varies from person to person depending upon how long Politifact.org has been following them. Therefore, President Obama’s raw number of fact-checks is much greater than Governor Romney’s. The two Vice-Presidential candidates are each rated on relatively fewer instances than the men at the top of the ticket.

The columns in the table list the raw number of “facts” in each category and then the resulting percentage. For example, in the first row it shows that 95 of President Obama’s factual statements were rated as True. Therefore 22% of the statements Politifact.org rated for the President were considered true.

Additionally, I have added two columns to the right of the Politifact.org data. The first column gives a ratio of true statements to false statements. Again, using President Obama’s line it shows that he tells the truth (to some extent) 2.57 times for every 1 time that he misrepresents the truth (to some extent).

The column farthest to the right gives what I call a “Positive Truth Factor”. It is generated by adding all the percentages in the three “true” categories and subtracting from that number the total of the percentages in the “false” categories. Once more, using the Obama line, it shows that his percentage of true statements is 44% greater than his percentage of untrue statements.

It is important to note that, despite what our mothers told us, not all lies are equal. Some are atrocious, malicious, and dangerous. Others less so. Further, while I believe Politifact.org and its cousin fact-checking organization, FactCheck.org, try to be as objective as possible their interpretation of the truth may not always agree with the reader’s assessment of truth. It is best to go to their websites and read the rationale for any fact you wish to check on.

But for those who feel they can’t afford the time, the table produced above attempts to give a fair assessment of the truth claims of the candidates.

Who is telling the truth? It is obvious that all parties involved need to hone their facts. But there is a marked difference in the performance of the men in the matter of truth-telling.

Perhaps the important question is not, “Who is telling the truth?” but “Does it matter to you?”

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