Same idea, different results

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on June 28, 2011

First, the facts. Here’s a chart showing the employment picture since the start of the recession for the last 4 recessions.


Here’s Mitt Romney:

"It's been a failure in the last several years to get America back on track again. It's taken longer to get Americans back to work than it took during the Great Depression. This is the slowest job recovery since Hoover. It breaks my heart. I want to get us back to work."

Politifact has rated this statement “false.”

Here’s GOP Senate candidate from Florida, Adam Hasner:

"Obama-Nelson economic record. Job creation ... at slowest post-recession rate since Great Depression," Hasner tweeted on May 23, 2011.

Politifact has rated this statement “mostly true.”

Why the disparity in the way these two statements were ranked? Politifact explains:

The issue came up in an earlier PolitiFact item. However, we’re taking Romney at his literal word, and he said "the slowest job recovery," which is the period after the recession has ended and the recovery has begun.

Why does Politifact not give Romney the same benefit of the doubt that it gave Hasner? Hasner’s claim was a written tweet. Romney’s was apparently as spoken on the spur of the moment. Assuming Romney was thinking of that chart above, the difference between a “mostly true” and a “false” is “from Start of Recession.”

It’s certainly not the same benefit of the doubt given House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer.

Simply comparing the two statements by Hasner and Romney, it’s clear they’re both trying to communicate the same thing. If Romney had simply stated:

This is the slowest [post recession] job recovery since Hoover.

He would’ve gotten a “mostly true.” (Or maybe not, I’m deeply cynical and skeptical when it comes to Politifact.)

There’s something wrong with your method of analysis when such a minor difference in phrasing can lead to such disparate grades.

3 comments on “Same idea, different results”

  1. The error seems as simple as a fallacy of equivocation on the term "recovery."

    It's not like recovering jobs could possibly be different from the NBER's timing in counting the end of the recession ("recovery"), after all. 🙂

  2. Scratch my above comment. PolitiFact treated both statements as referring to the rate of job growth after the recession had ended. They simply fail to use the measure from the chart (rate at which the lost jobs are recovered rather than the rate of job growth), and failed to grade Romney by the same measure they graded Hasner.

    If they do a correction, bet on Hasner dropping to "False."

  3. I concur that they'd be more likely to drop Hasner to a false.

    At first I thought the different standards was due to the national Politifact assessment vs. a state Politifact being on a different page. But the St. Petersberg Times is the lead state and federal group, so it's actually the same guys.


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June 2011



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