Thursday, September 17, 2015

Truthiness in the Republican Debate

You don't listen to a debate of Presidential wannabe's and expect to hear a lot of the truth.  As the old joke goes, "How do you know when a politician is lying?  When he's talking!"  And debates these days are more about macho posturing than honest, substantive discussion.

So last night was the Republican presidential debate.  I didn't watch it as driving nails into my forehead would be less painful.  Political junkies suffered through it, though.  One of the more interesting junkies is Politifact, which fact-checks everybody's statements.  They published a report today that showed the number of statements each candidate made in six categories: True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False, and Pants on Fire.  It was interesting to go through their data.

Being a bit of a geek, I decided to do an analysis of each candidate's answers and find out how they scored on the truthiness continuum.  For each "True" statement, they got 5 points; for each "Mostly True" they got 4 points, and so on, with 0 points awarded for a "Pants On Fire" answer.  Then I added up their points and divided by the number of statements they made.  The result was an average score of how true their statements were.  Here are the results:

Bobby Jindal: 3.44 (ie: about midway between "Mostly True" and "Half True")
John Kasich: 3.28
Jeb Bush: 3.26
Rand Paul: 3.07
Chris Christie: 3.01
Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham: 3.00 (this is the "Half True" level)
Mike Huckabee: 2.65
Scott Walker: 2.62
Carly Fiorina: 2.55
Rick Santorum: 2.34
Ted Cruz: 2.11 (this is about the "Mostly False" level)
Ben Carson: 1.57
Donald Trump: 1.54 (halfway between the "False" and "Mostly False" levels)

Very interesting.  Remember, this is only a measure of how true their statements are.  It doesn't consider whether they actually believe the nonsense coming out of their mouths.  And it doesn't consider a lot of other things that have to be taken into account in choosing our next Supreme Leader.  All it indicates is how true their statements might be at any given moment.

I find it very interesting that three of the top four candidates in the current polls are at the bottom of the truthiness scale.  What they're saying is mostly false, but the Republican base loves them for it.  What can you expect from people who watch Fox News?  They're raised on falsehood, and seem to know quality falsehood when they hear it.

Another interesting thing is that Bobby Jindal is at the top of the list, but he made very few statements (9).  I thought that maybe keeping your mouth shut would be a good way to score well, but then, Ben Carson made even fewer statements (7) and scored only a tick better than the biggest liar, Donald Trump.

So there you have it.  According to Politifact, about half the Republican field scores in the "Half True" or better side, while the other half don't, and three of those are in the "Mostly False" or worse category.  Including most of the leaders.

It will be interesting to do the same analysis for the Democratic candidates, if the national party ever lets them have a debate.

1 comment:

Joan said...

I did try to watch the 2nd R debate and, yes, it was very much like driving nails into my head. However, the majority of the blinding pain came from the horrible, inane, playground-type questions offered up by Jake Tapper. I just couldn't hang with it.