The study found that PolitiFact.com is twice as likely to rate Republican claims as false compared with Democratic claims, while the Post’s Kessler splits almost evenly between the two parties.
“This study shows that media fact-checking involves subjective judgments, just like any other form of journalism. Voters must still decide for themselves which ‘facts’ they trust,” said CMPA President Dr Robert Lichter in a release accompanying the study.
The study examined 152 election-related statements by both presidential candidates, their campaign surrogates, and campaign ads that were examined by both PolitiFact.com and the Post between July 1 to September 11. The study found:
PolitiFact rated Democratic claims as “mostly true” or “entirely true” about twice as often as Republican statements — 42% true ratings for Democrats vs. 20% for Republicans.
Conversely, claims by Republicans were rated as entirely false about twice as often as Democratic claims – 29% false ratings for GOP statements vs. 15% false ratings for Democrats. (This includes categories labeled “false” and “pants on fire.”)
By contrast, on a scale of zero to four Pinocchios, the Washington Post Fact Checker rated Democrats as more likely than Republicans to make both the most truthful and the least truthful claims:
26% of Democratic claims were awarded zero or one Pinocchio (the most truthful categories), compared to 16% of Republican claims. But 61% of Democratic statements also received three or four Pinocchios (the least truthful categories), compared to 48% of Republican statements.
Overall, Democratic claims averaged 2.52. Pinocchios, almost identical to the 2.48 average for GOP claims analyzed by the Washington Post Fact Checker.At Politifact.com. On a scale from 1 (true) to 6 (pants on fire), Republicans averaged 2.56, compared to 1.77 for Democrats.
The study did not examine the work of the other major fact check organization, the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s FactCheck.org.
The work of these various fact check columnists have become extremely popular among political junkies, candidates and pundits. The subjective nature of the work has made many of their judgments questionable, especially that of Politifact.
Asked for comment, the Post’s Glenn Kessler emailed the following statement to the Examiner: “My basic principal is that politicians in both political parties will stretch the truth if they think it gives them an edge, so I am not surprised by these results. I always strive to be fair-minded and nonpartisan in evaluating claims–and try to be consistent in applying the Pinocchio ratings.”
He added: “I admire PolitiFact and think they do good work.”
A spokesman for PolitiFact could not be reached for comment.