Analysis

“PolitiFact”: Because “PolitiCherryPickers” didn’t sound quite as trustworthy

liar-liar-pants-on-fireReminder: the field of supposedly objective, dedicated “fact-checkers” is mostly a disreputable, biased racket. On Sunday, PolitiFact slapped a “False” rating on Donald Trump’s claim that “in terms of polling, the pro-choice is going down a little bit” because Gallup says otherwise:

In May of this year, the polling group found 50 percent of Americans identify as pro-choice, compared to 44 percent of Americans who identify as pro-life.

That’s actually up, not down.

The gap is outside the margin of error, the first time the pro-choice position has a statistically significant edge since 2008. If anything, the pro-choice position is gaining ground, not losing it in recent years. In 2012, 50 percent of people identified as pro-life, Gallup found, compared to 41 percent who identified as pro-choice.

When most people hear the phrase “fact-checking,” they don’t think it means “cherry-picking.” In fact, the latter defeats the purpose of the former. But that’s exactly what PolitiFact did here: looked at how the numbers behind each label compared and called it a day. But the very same poll reveals that when it comes to specific policies, the majority was still pro-life after all—55 percent said abortion should be legal in few or no circumstances.

Such an omission is doubly egregious considering the PolitiFact report mentions a study “that found many Americans identified as pro-life and pro-choice,” meaning they knew as they were writing it that relying on the labels alone could be misleading.

PolitiFact attempts to supplement their shoddy reading of the numbers with Pew research suggesting “51 percent of adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while with 43 percent say it should be illegal all or most of the time. Those percentages have been near the same level for more than 20 years”—y’know, the question they chose not to look at in their Exhibit A, Gallup.

What they don’t tell you is how many other polls say different. According to Marist’s last two annual abortion surveys, the percentage of Americans who would ban all elective abortions (anything outside rape, incest, or life of the mother, at most) was 60% in May 2009, 56% in December 2012, 56% in January 2014, and back up to 59% in January 2015. In March 2014, ORC international found for CNN that 58% said it should be legal in “few” or no circumstances.

And in the most remarkable findings of all, CNS News’s Terence Jeffrey pointed out at the beginning of this month, “in 37 straight surveys conducted over the course of 21 years” by Gallup, a majority has always said abortion should be either mostly or entirely banned. “In the past 20 years, the percentage who say abortion should be illegal in all circumstances or all but a few circumstances has never dropped below 54 percent.”

The most headline-grabbing factoid from Gallup’s latest report does not contradict the long-term trends in its broader research or even the fine print of its latest findings. For pushing a political narrative with selective evidence while masquerading as an impartial watchdog, we give PolitiFact a rating of “Pants on Fire.”

READ NEXT
Comments4
To Top