Tag Archives: Bias

New study: Politifact fact-checker is biased against Republicans

How accurate is the fact-checking site Politifact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times newspaper?

The Weekly Standard reports on a recent study from George Mason University.

Excerpt:

The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) at George Mason University is out with a new study on media fact checkers, and unsurprisingly, their results suggest that PolitiFact has it out for Republicans. Dylan Byers at Politico summarized CMPA’s findings:

The fact-checking organization PolitiFact has found Republicans to be less trustworthy than Democrats, according to a new study.

Fifty-two percent of Republican claims reviewed by the Tampa Bay Times fact-checking operation were rated “mostly false,” “false” or “pants on fire,” versus just 24 percent of Democratic statements, according to George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs. By the same token, 54 percent of Democratic statements were rated as “mostly true” or “true,” compared to just 18 percent of Republican statements.

The CMPA looked at 100 statements — 46 by Democrats, 54 by Republicans — that were fact-checked by PolitiFact between January 20 and May 22.

[…]This is also not the first academic study that concluded PolitiFact might be putting their thumb on the scale when it comes to selecting and evaluating political statements. Last year, during the height of campaign season, the CMPA tallied up PolitiFact ratings. That study also showed PolitiFact tends to be much harder on Republicans:

The study examined 98 election-related statements by the presidential candidates, their surrogates, and campaign ads fact-checked by PolitiFact.com from June 1 to September 11. Major findings:

PolitiFact checked the assertions of Democrats slightly more often than those of Republicans (54% vs. 46% of all statements).

However, PolitiFact rated Democratic statements as “mostly true” or “entirely true” about twice as often as Republican statements — 42% true ratings for Democrats vs. 20% for Republicans.

Conversely, statements by Republicans were rated as entirely false about twice as often as Democratic statements – 29% false ratings for GOP statements vs. 15% false ratings for Democrats. (This includes categories labeled “false” and “pants on fire.”)

Further, the University of Minnesota School of Public Affairs looked at over than 500 PolitiFact stories from January 2010 through January 2011. Their conclusion:

Current and former Republican officeholders have been assigned substantially harsher grades by the news organization than their Democratic counterparts. In total, 74 of the 98 statements by political figures judged ‘false’ or ‘pants on fire’ over the last 13 months were given to Republicans, or 76 percent, compared to just 22 statements for Democrats (22 percent).

In other words, they are cherry-picking statements that are false for Republicans and true for Democrats. But maybe that’s just because Republicans lie more than Democrats right before an election? Maybe, just before an election, Republicans suddenly start to lie uncontrollably while Democrats suddenly start to tell the truth all the time?

Let’s take a look at one famous case and see.

This is from Avik Roy, health care policy expert at Forbes magazine.

2008 PolitiFact before the election: ‘We rate his statement True’

Roy writes: (links removed)

On October 9, 2008, Angie Drobnic Holan of PolitiFact published an article using the site’s “Truth-O-Meter” to evaluate this claim: “Under Barack Obama’s health care proposal, ‘if you’ve got a health care plan that you like, you can keep it.’” The article assures us in its headline that “Obama’s plan expands [the] existing system,” and continues that “Obama is accurately describing his health care plan here…It remains to be seen whether Obama’s plan will actually be able to achieve the cost savings it promises for the health care system. But people who want to keep their current insurance should be able to do that under Obama’s plan. His description of his plan is accurate, and we rate his statement True.”

The 2008 Obama plan, among other things, sought to transform the individual insurance market; it proposed to bar insurers from charging different premiums to the healthy and the sick, and to require them to offer plans to all comers, regardless of prior health status. According to PolitiFact, however, there was no need to worry that these provisions would be disruptive to existing health plans.

As per PolitiFact’s usual M.O., Holan didn’t seek out any skeptical health-policy experts to suss out the veracity of Senator Obama’s signature claim. Instead, its sources included Jonathan Cohn, a passionate Obamacare supporter at The New Republic, and various interviews and statements of Mr. Obama. Holan simply took the “keep your plan” promise at face value, dismissing as dishonest anyone who dared suggest that Obama’s claim would be impossible to keep. “His opponents have attacked his plan as ‘government-run’ health care,” she wrote, the scare-quotes around “government-run” being visible to all.

PolitiFact’s pronouncements about Obamacare were widely repeated by pro-Obama reporters and pundits, and had a meaningful impact on the outcome of the election. Indeed, in 2009, PolitiFact won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the 2008 campaign.

Here’s the screen capture from 2008:

Politifact caught with its pants on fire
Politifact caught with its pants on fire

2013 PolitiFact after the election: ‘We rate his statement Pants On Fire’

Roy writes: (links removed)

On December 12, [2013] the self-appointed guardians of truth and justice at PolitiFact named President Obama’s infamous promise—that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it”—its 2013 “Lie of the Year.”

[…]So that brings us back to the fall of 2013. As Obamacare’s battle station became operational, and tens of millions of health plans became illegal, PolitiFact was caught with its flaming pants down. Louis Jacobson rapped Valerie Jarrett for tweeting that “nothing in Obamacare forces people out of their health plans”—a claim Jacobson rated as “False,” even though PolitiFact had rated it as “True” and “Half True” before.

On November 4, Jacobson rated as “Pants on Fire” the President’s new claim that “what we said was, you can keep [your plan] if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.” Both pieces were edited by Angie Drobnic Holan, who had initially granted PolitiFact’s seal of approval to Senator Obama’s 2008 promise. Holan delivered the coup de grâce, declaring as PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” the “keep your plan” promise.

“The promise was impossible to keep,” says Holan in her December piece. Now she tells us! But none of the key facts that made that promise “impossible” in 2008 had changed by 2013. The President’s plan had always required major disruption of the health insurance market; the Obamacare bill contained the key elements of that plan; the Obamacare law did as well. The only thing that had changed was the actual first-hand accounts of millions of Americans who were losing their plans now that Obamacare was live.

And the screen capture from 2013:

Politifact says: we were just kidding! Kidding!
Politifact says: we were just kidding! Kidding!

So when Politifact rates a statement by a Democrat as true, what they really mean is that it’s pants-on-fire-false, but it’s election time so they don’t say that.

The Tampa Bay Times. Politifact. It’s a catchy name, isn’t? It’s telling us the Facts about Politics. I suppose the same people who think that Politifact is a reliable fact checker also believe that the Affordable Care Act would lower premiums by $2500, as Obama said. It actually raised them $3000 in objective reality, though. But it says Affordable Care Act in the name, so missing the target by $5500 must be “affordable”.

I think this case demonstrates how people on the political left allow their emotions to overturn objective reality. You can keep your doctor. You can keep your health plan. Benghazi was caused by a Youtube video. The e-mails and e-mail backups of all the IRS employees were lost. The Department of Justice did not target Associated Press journalists. The assault weapons were not gun-walked to Mexican drug cartels. They will believe anything that makes them feel superior and noble, even pinned down by the heavy weight of countervailing facts.

Sociologist George Yancey examines bias against Bible-believing Christians

So Many Christians, So Few Lions by George Yancey, PhD
So Many Christians, So Few Lions

There are three posts in the series, and I think these are all worth reading.

Let’s see the introduction to the series from the first post.

Over the next three blog entries, I am going to discuss the content of my latest book –So Many Christians, So Few Lions – Christianophobia in the United States. Actually the book has not come out yet, but will officially come out later this month. Obviously the focus of the book will be the nature of anti-Christian attitudes in the United States. In this first entry, I look at the contours of a basic level of animosity towards conservative Christians in the United States. My next entry will qualitatively explore the nature of Christianophobic attitudes. In my final entry I will consider the implications of this work, as well as other research and social events, for what it means about this type of anti-religious bigotry. For the balance of these blog entries, I will define Christianophobia as unreasonable hatred or fear of Christians.

The first post is here.

Here’s a snippet that explains which segment of our society is opposed to Christians who take the Bible seriously:

In another research project that I am currently working on, we asked college teachers how they would define a fundamentalist and how they would see a fundamentalist as different from other Protestants. Beyond basic stereotypical descriptions, these individuals tended to label fundamentalists as those who believed the Bible to be the literal word of God. According to the 2012 ANES, about a third of Americans have such a belief. If the respondents in the ANES use a similar definition of fundamentalism then the animosity exhibited by them is not directed at an extreme Christian fringe but against a substantial portion of the population.

What is as important as the extent of this animosity is who tends to possess this animosity. Those who listed Christian fundamentalists a standard deviation below the mean of the other groups are 79.4 percent white, 47.6 percent with a bachelor degree, 64.5 percent make at least $50,000 a year and 29.2 percent make at least $100,000 a year. All of these numbers are significantly higher than the percentages in the population without this animosity. Thus, those with anti-Christian hostility are whiter, better educated and wealthier than others in our society. These are majority group qualities indicating that those with anti-Christian animosity have more per-capita social power than the average person.

Remember that we not only explored animosity towards conservative Christians but also animosity towards other social groups. I found that those with relative hostility towards atheists are older, non-white, undereducated, political conservatives. Those with relative hostility towards Muslims tend to be older, nonblack political conservative males. Those with relative hostility towards Mormons are younger, non-whites political progressives. This provides some complexity to this discussion of potential religious bias and bigotry. For example, there appear to be just as many people with anti-Muslim hostility as there are with hostility towards conservative Christians. However those with potential Islamophobia do not seem to have a great deal of per-capita political power, unlike those with potential Christianophobia.

The second post is here.

Here’s a snippet that discusses whether the group identified in post one dehumanize Christians:

Several researchers and social thinkers have written about dehumanization. But the best conceptualization of dehumanization comes from Nick Haslem. He identified two types of dehumanization: animalistic and mechanical. A cursory reading of the answers from the respondents indicates that animalistic dehumanization fits their responses better than mechanical dehumanization. He identified five qualities of animalistic dehumanization – lack of culture instead of civility, coarseness instead of refinement, amorality instead of moral sensibility, irrationality instead of logic and childlikeness instead of maturity.

I do not have the space to explore all five of these qualities within the answers of my respondents (I did such an exploration in the book). But I will look at the last characteristic which is the notion that Christians are childlike instead of mature. Indeed my respondents tended to paint a picture of Christians being immature individuals led by powerful, manipulative leaders.

The leaders are deceptive and power hungry individuals who invoke “God” in a political sense to rally their supporters…They play to people’s emotions, daily. (Female, aged 26-35 with Bachelor degree)

Their movement’s leaders are the worst type of manipulative authoritarian scum and their millions of followers are sad, weak people who are all too willing to give up their self-respect and liberty for a fantasy. (Male, aged 26-35 with Bachelor degree)

In this way the respondents take away the agency of Christians by suggesting that they are weak individuals unable to resist the desires of evil leaders. Rather the respondents support an image of Christians as being children misled by bad parents.

This type of stereotyping fits quite well with some of the insults that my respondents used in describing Christians. For example, some variation of the term “brainwash” came up 137 times, from 125 respondents. Almost every time the term was used, it was to note the inability of Christians to think for themselves. For example, a female, aged 56-65 with a bachelor degree wrote, “I believe that this group is in general poorly educated and often brainwashed to the point of seeing no perspective but their own. Many allow themselves to become tools of charismatic, self serving leaders because they have been deprived of the education and tools to ever think otherwise.” This respondent, like many other respondents, have a stereotype of Christians reflecting them as unthinking imbeciles. It is a dehumanizing stereotype creating an image of Christians as not having full human capacities.

Beyond the notion of brainwashing, 66 of our respondents use the terms sheep and 5 of our respondents used the term lemmings to describe Christians as well.

[…]These numbers seem low considering that I have a sample of almost three thousand respondents; however, it should be noted that these comments comparing Christians to animals are unprompted. (It is also instructive to consider which terms were not used at all. For example, ape or gorilla was not used by any of the respondents to describe conservative Christians.) Closed ended questions providing respondents with the opportunity to characterize conservative Christians in animalistic terms would likely garner a nontrivial level of support. The comments about Christians as passive animals, combined with the relative willingness of the respondents to use the term brainwashed, occur often enough to provide some confidence that characterizations of Christians as unthinking passive followers are accepted within subcultures with high levels of Christianophobic animosity. If there is any doubt that there is an animalistic element to the type of dehumanizing occurring among my respondents, the use of these animals clearly indicates that Christians are not always seen as human.

The third post is here.

Here’s a snippet showing how this bias against Christians manifests itself:

It is well established that academics tend to be more politically progressive and secular than the general population. It is obvious that they are highly educated. So academia theoretically should be a place where we would find a higher than normal level of Christianophobia. This Christianophobia may manifest in discrimination against conservative Christians. A few years ago I conducted research suggesting that this is the case. I found that academics were willing to discriminate against a prospective candidate for an academic position if they found out that the candidate is a conservative Protestant. In fact, they were more willing to discriminate against conservative Protestants than against any other social group included in my survey. Their willingness to discriminate against those Protestants was even more powerful than their willingness to discriminate against political conservatives. Religious intolerance trumps potential political intolerance among academics.

Of course simply because academics state that they are open to discriminating against conservative Protestants does not mean that they actually engage in such discrimination. A survey is not sufficient evidence. However, Rothman and Lichter conducted research documenting that academics with socially conservative beliefs tend to be located in lower status occupational positions even after controlling for demographic variables and their level of productivity. If conservative Protestants are more likely to have socially conservative beliefs than other academics, a reasonable belief, then this research suggests systematic evidence that there are occupational disadvantages in academia to having conservative Christian beliefs. Since academics have a willingness to discriminate against those Christians, this disadvantage cannot merely be due to their inability to do science, as the common stereotype of Christians seems to imply, but discrimination from academics who may be motivated by Christianophobia is likely an important factor.

Buy the book if you find this a useful tool for your own discussions.

You may also like to watch this lecture featuring Dr. Yancey.

Dr. George Yancey lectures on anti-Christian bias in academia, and beyond

A 28-minute lecture on bias against religion in academia:

If you watch 5 minutes, then you’ll definitely stay and watch the whole thing. It’s fascinating.

Details:

Join Dr. George Yancey in an in depth discussion of the bias taking place within academia against religion in general, but more specifically Christianity. Within the discussion Dr.Yancey uses brief explanations of his previous book, Compromising Scholarship and many other excerpts of his past research as well as his forthcoming research to give us a new viewpoint on academia and religion.

I found a quick description of Dr. Yancey’s work in this New York Times article from July 2011.

It says:

Republican scholars are more likely than Democrats to end up working outside academia,as documented by Daniel Klein, an economist at George Mason University. Dr. Klein, who calls himself a classical liberal (a k a libertarian), says that the university promotes groupthink because its system of “departmental majoritarianism” empowers the dominant faction to keep hiring like-minded colleagues. And when a faculty committee is looking to hire or award tenure, political ideology seems to make a difference, according to a “collegiality survey” conducted by George Yancey.

Dr. Yancey, a professor of sociology at the University of North Texas, asked more than 400 sociologists which nonacademic factors might influence their willingness to vote for hiring a new colleague. You might expect professors to at least claim to be immune to bias in academic hiring decisions.

But as Dr. Yancey reports in his new book, “Compromising Scholarship: Religious and Political Bias in American Higher Education,” more than a quarter of the sociologists said they would be swayed favorably toward a Democrat or an A.C.L.U. member and unfavorably toward a Republican. About 40 percent said they would be less inclined to vote for hiring someone who belonged to the National Rifle Association or who was an evangelical. Similar results were obtained in a subsequent survey of professors in other social sciences and the humanities.

Dr. Yancey, who describes himself as a political independent with traditional Christian beliefs and progressive social values, advises nonliberal graduate students to be discreet during job interviews. “The information in this research,” he wrote, “indicates that revealing one’s political and religious conservatism will, on average, negatively influence about half of the search committee one is attempting to impress.”

Dr. Yancey’s research was a survey, not a field experiment, so it’s impossible to know how many of those academics who confessed to hypothetical bias would let it sway an actual decision. Perhaps they’d try to behave as impartially as the directors of graduate studies in Dr. Gross’s experiment.

The lecture is a real eye-opener. It turns out that in academia, you are likely to be viewed the same way as blacks were viewed by slave-owners, and Jews were viewed by Nazis. Stereotypes, ignorance and hatred abound.

We have a lot of work to do to correct these perceptions, but that’s not going to happen unless churches and Christian parents start to take the life of the mind more seriously.

In California, 95% of professor’s donations goes to Democrats

From The College Fix.

Excerpt:

With midterm elections looming, an analysis of professors’ recent campaign contributions to California lawmakers found that about 95 percent of their donations went to Democratic politicians.

Dozens of scholars have donated nearly $200,000 to a variety of Democratic representatives, while Republican politicians only netted about $9,000 from scholars, Federal Election Commission records show.

In effect, contributions by professors to Democrat lawmakers outweigh donations to Republican ones by 22 to 1, according to the The College Fix analysis.

The analysis used figures listed on the Federal Election Commission website from January 2013 through 2014 spring filings. Both Political Action Committee and individual campaign contributions were included in the data. Only donors with occupations listed as “professor” were included in the tally.

The survey looked at all 53 U.S. congressional representatives in California as well as its two U.S. Senators, 40 of whom are Democrat and 15 are Republican.

The California lawmaker who appears a favorite among professors is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Pelosi’s Victory Fund PAC garnered the largest dollar amount in donations from professors by far at $50,500.

When people go to university, so often they think, I’ll just study whatever I want. But I think given the bias of most professors, a better plan is to focus on studying something in the STEM fields, especially math, engineering and computer science, where you wouldn’t be as exposed to the bias of these professors. Even if the professors are biased, there is not much they can do to inject their bias into a STEM course. It’s something to think about – and STEM degrees pay better, too.

Ohio State University core class teaches that atheists are smarter than Christians

From Campus Reform. (H/T Nancy Pearcey tweet)

Excerpt:

Ohio State University (OSU) class has apparently determined another fundamental difference between Christians and atheists: their IQ points.

An online quiz from the school’s Psychology 1100 class, provided to Campus Reform via tip, asked students to pick which scenario they found most likely given that “Theo has an IQ of 100 and Aine has an IQ of 125.”

The correct answer? “Aine is an atheist, while Theo is a Christian.”

According to a student in the class who wished to remain anonymous, the question was a part of an online homework quiz. Students were required to complete a certain amount of quizzes throughout the course but were encouraged to finish all of them in order to prep for the final exam.

“I understand that colleges have a liberal spin on things so it didn’t surprise me to see the question, which is a sad thing,” the student told Campus Reform in a phone interview. “But how can you really measure which religion has a higher IQ?”

Psychology 1100 is a general education requirement class which can primarily be taught by an undergraduate teacher’s assistant.

[…]Dr. Mike Adams, an outspoken conservative Christian professor at the University of North Carolina, said “every group is protected from offensive speech on campus except for conservative Christians.”

The university is a challenging problem for Christians who want to make a difference. On the one hand, it’s definitely a center of influence where many young people come to learn how the world works. On the other hand, if you are a conservative Christian, you will be attacked there. It would be nice if Christians could somehow influence the university, helping young people to find or keep their relationship with God in Christ. But I don’t think it’s a priority for most Christians. Ratio Christi does a good job, and I like to sponsor their events. We lose a lot of young people who are raised in Christian homes at the university.