Why PolitiFact’s “True/False” Percentages Are Meaningless

Nathan J. Robinson writes for Current Affairs:

Why PolitiFact’s “True/False” Percentages Are MeaninglessIt has gone on for so long, and been debunked so many times, that it would seem unnecessary to issue further comment. But in the latest edition of Harper’smagazine, it happens again. This time, the culprit is novelist Martin Amis. In a feature article on Donald Trump, Amis says that, according to the independent fact-checking website PolitiFact, Trump lies more than 90% of the time.

In citing Trump’s extraordinary falsity-to-truth ratio, Amis is anything but alone. Scores of media outlets have used PolitiFact’s numbers to damn Trump. The Washington Post has cited the “amazing fact” of Trump’s lie rate, with bar charts showing the comparative frequency of his falsifications. The Week counted only those things deemed completely “True,” and thus concluded that “only 1 percent of the statements Donald Trump makes are true.” Similar claims have been repeated in the US News, Reason, and The New York Times.

But all of these numbers are bunk. They’re meaningless. They don’t tell us that lies constitute a certain percentage of Trump’s speech. In fact, they barely tell us anything at all.



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