Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009, the 'half true' year

As something of a politics junkie, one of my favorite websites is The fine folks there vet the statements of politicians and other notables, assigning ratings of their statements ranging from 'true' down to 'pants on fire'.

In today's post, the reflect on the scoring for 2009, a rather contentious year, and report that you hear the truth, or something resembling it, about half the time. Sounds about right, to me.

The Truth-O-Meter went red in 2009.
We mention red because that’s the meter’s color for our lowest ratings, False and Pants on Fire. Of the 432 fact-checking items we published this year, 26 percent were rated False and 10 percent earned a Pants on Fire.

That means more than one-third of all the claims we checked were incorrect.
Another way to look at it: The truth took a beating in 2009.

That was particularly true in the debate over health care, where nearly 40 percent of claims were rated False or Pants on Fire.

And if you’re relying on pundits or talk show hosts for your facts, you might want to reconsider. More than 45 percent of their claims were False or Pants on Fire.

The social scientists on our staff (okay, there’s just one) discourage us from comparing this year’s ratings with last year, when we were focused on the presidential campaign. Our ratings are journalism, not social science, after all, and the items are chosen based on our news judgment and staffing, not randomly selected. But with that big caveat, it’s still interesting to note that we had a lower share of False and Pants on Fire ratings during the 2008 campaign – 24 percent – than the 36 percent in 2009, when we rated the Congressional debate and comments from the White House.

In case you’re scoring at home, here are the stats for 2009:

True 18%
Mostly True 14.5
Half True 17.5
Barely True 13.8
False 26.2
Pants on Fire 10.0

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