Do Republicans Lie More Than Democrats? PolitiFact Ratings Say ‘Yes’ — But Is the Fact-Checker Biased?

Does PolitiFact.com, a popular fact-checking outlet produced by The Tampa Bay Times, have a bias against Republicans?

Considering the results of a new study by The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) at George Mason University, some will surely answer affirmatively. Analysis of the first four months of President Barack Obama’s second term found that PolitiFact rated Republicans’ claims false three times as often as Democratic statements.

Naturally, the first reaction in this instance is to assume an anti-GOP bias, especially considering the recent scandals surrounding Benghazi, the IRS and the Associated Press. Considering the extra scrutiny on the Obama administration and a push for viable and truthful information about these scenarios, one would expect Democratic claims to be fact-checked more regularly and diligently (at least in the current climate).

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee at the Chicago Hilton on May 29, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Credit: Getty Images

But, alas, this isn’t the case.

Of the 100 claims that were examined by PolitiFact (46 by Democrats and 54 by Republicans) from January 20 through May 22, 32 percent of Republicans’ statements were rated “false” or “pants on fire,” indicating that these politicians weren’t being truthful. On the flip side, just 11 percent of Democratic claims were given the same designation.

And what about claims of truth?

While Democrats saw 22 percent of their statements rated as “entirely true,” only 11 percent of Republicans’ statements were labeled the same. A similar dynamic existed for claims that were seen as “mostly or entirely true” (54 percent for Democrats versus 18 percent for Republicans).

“While Republicans see a credibility gap in the Obama administration, PolitiFact rates Republicans as the less credible party,” said CMPA president Dr. Robert Lichter.

Digging into the findings, one can come to one of two conclusions: Either there’s a bias against the GOP — or Republicans lie much more fervently than Democrats (at least during the first four months of Obama’s second term).

As CMPA notes, this isn’t the first time that analysis of PolitiFact’s work has yielded disparities. In the past, the Mitt Romney campaign was given more negative ratings that the Obama campaign. Again, it’s possible the former lied more regularly, although many would debate this.

Read all of the results of the latest CMPA study about PolitiFact.

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