Monday, November 07, 2016

We Get Dogged

When confronted with the overwhelming evidence that Donald Trump is spectacularly unqualified to be President of the United States, many of his supporters tell me, "Well, I don't trust Hillary.  She's not very honest."

That perception doesn't hold up very well to scrutiny. 

According to the Pulitzer-prize winning, non-partisan Politi-Facts web site, 51% of the fact-checked statements by Hillary Clinton were either "true" or "mostly true," while about half that, 24.5%, of the statements were either "mostly false" (11.7%), "false" (10.2%) or "pants-on-fire" false (2.6%).  

That's a little bit better than President Obama's 48% "true" or "mostly true," and 26% "mostly false," "false," or "pants-on-fire" false.  Even Bernie Sanders, whose statements are 51% "true" and "mostly true" like Clinton's, still gets a 28% "false" and "mostly false" score, although to his credit, no "pants-on-fire" false statements. Still, it seems that politics is a tough game for keeping it 100. 

In other words, although no one's 100% accurate, Clinton tells the truth as often as Bernie Sanders and more that President Obama, and makes fewer false statements than either one of them.  

On the other hand, 69.6% of Donald Trump's fact-checked statements were either "mostly false" (19.9%), "false" (33.7%) or "pants-on-fire" false (17%).  Only 15.7% of his statements were "true" or "mostly true."

These data suggest that Hillary Clinton is 3 times more truthful than Donald Trump - well, 2.8 times to be precise.  

Even though Politi-Facts is non-partisan, it is possible that there may be some cherry-picking among the statements selected for fact checking, as well as what constitutes a "false" claim versus a "pants-on-fire" claim.  So, in fairness, let's get a second opinion and look at The Washington Post's Fact Checker, which rates statements on a scale of 0 (for mostly true) to 4 (for mostly false) "Pinocchios." Of Clinton's 49 rated statements, 7 received no Pinnochios, 3 received one Pinnochio, 17 received two Pinnochios, 15 received three Pinnochios, and 7 received four Pinnochios. That seems like a lot of Pinnochios, even if they do fall into a bell-shaped distribution, with seven each at the zero- and four-Pinnochio ends, and 17 and 15 near the middle.  

However, of Trump's 92 rated statements, 3 received no Pinnochios, one received one Pinnochio, seven received two Pinnochios, 22 received three Pinnochios, and, get ready, a whopping 67 received four Pinnochios. No bell-shaped distribution here - the curve is highly skewed toward the "whoppers" end of the scale.  

Compared to Clinton's 7 four-Pinnochio statements, Trump's 67 indicates he tells 9.5 whoppers for every one of Clinton's.

Trump supporters seem untethered to reality, and likely will look at these data as just more evidence of a biased media and a "rigged" election. But those of us who make our decisions in consensus-based reality realize that the actual media bias is the perpetuation of the myth of Clinton's deceitfulness, a perception left unchallenged in the news despite evidence to the contrary.

But yadda yadda yadda - numbers, math, and science - the election's tomorrow, so please get out and vote.  Vote for the candidate of your choice, but please don't make me have to take a slow boat to China (actually, to New Zealand) ("pants on fire").

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