Scoring Truthfulness in the Health Care Debate

by John Sides on August 14, 2009 · 31 comments

in Health Care

Everyone knows the background, so let’s just get to the data. I tabulated the various claims related to health care that Politifact has evaluated. I began after the presidential election and excluded claims related to other health care topics (e.g, H1N1).

Then I broke down the results into two groups: claims by Republicans or opponents of health care reform and claims by Democrats or supporters of health care reform. I also separated Obama’s claims from those of Democrats.

Here are the results:

politifact_healthcare1.png

As you can see, and as Politifact editor Bill Adair has noted, the claims of Republicans and opponents of health care are much more likely to be false than true. Overall, 76% of their claims (16 of 21) are either “false ” or “pants on fire.”

They are also more likely to be false than are claims of Democrats and supporters of reform. Overall, 28% (5 of 18) of Democrats’ claims are “false.”

Finally, Obama has been more truthful than either Republicans/opponents or other Democrats/supporters: 22% of his claims have been “false” (2 of 9); more than half have been “mostly true” or “true.”

Of course, these data are hardly dispositive. There is always the concern that Politifact has not systematically sampled health care claims, focusing instead on those that are simply getting the most attention or are the most inflammatory. Nevertheless, the data accord with what casual observation would suggest: opponents of health care reform have been more dishonest than supporters.

Update: In comments, Ted Brader suggests that this conclusion is too strong, given the limitations of these data. I was trying to hedge with words like “accord with” and “suggest” (as opposed to “prove” or “show”), but perhaps I didn’t hedge enough. These results are provisional, and systematic data are certainly necessary.

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