Thursday, June 30, 2011

Who Do You Trust?

(Edited to add additional names.)

One of the most important measures by which we judge our politicians is honesty. At the risk of being Captain Obvious, one would prefer that their elected officials not lie to them. But yet, when it actually comes time to vote, honesty never actually seems to play a part in the decision. No matter how untrustworthy a candidate seems to be, no matter how many years we spend screaming about the broken campaign promises of those who have come before, we seem to judge the new candidates, on some level, by what they have promised, disregarding the possibility that these promises may be lies. We almost never account for the possibility that the person we vote for might have something else up their sleeve-- although, given how things have gone in Wisconsin this year with Scott Walker, maybe that will change a bit.

We do have a way to measure one candidate's honesty against another. At Politifact, they keep a record of the history of every person and organization whose statements they rate. We'll be using those histories today, as well at the ratings each statement has received. You know the ratings by now: True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True, False and Pants On Fire. We're going to assign each rating a point value, as follows:

True- 5 points
Mostly True- 3 points
Half True- 2 points
Barely True- 1 point
False- 0 points
Pants On Fire- -1 point

This point system is designed to give a little extra bonus for having all your lines crossed and I's dotted, with the jump from 3 to 5 points from a Mostly True to a full True. Neither False nor Pants on Fire are awarded any points- getting things totally wrong should not be rewarded- and if you've been given a Pants on Fire, the inclination is that you've made people measurably dumber for having listened to you. That is going to be penalized in a way for which you'd be better off never having opened your mouth.

Now, Politifact has issued some questionable ratings. A little bit of salt is to be taken along with the ratings. However, it's still the best we've got.

What we're going to do here is take all the Republican primary candidates for President, even the ones who have dropped out, and others who have been speculated into the mix, and measure their average rating per statement. We will also measure President Obama. The raw point total won't mean anything, as that is profoundly dependent on how often they are examined. (It will, however, be supplied to help show the math- total points divided by total ratings equals average points per rating, or PPR.)

To help combat small sample sizes, like a baseball batting title, we're going to ask for a minimum number of five "at-bats" to qualify for a PPR. We'll include the non-qualifying candidates, but they will be given separately, without a PPR.

A score will show up with the ratings, in descending order from True to Pants On Fire, shown in the format (0/1/0/2/3/0). This sample chart signifies one Mostly True, two Barely Trues, and three Falses. Followed will be the total points, and then PPR- in this case, 0.833.

As a control, the score for "chain e-mails" will also be given, as they are pretty much Politifact's resident butt monkey; the single least-reliable source Politifact regularly checks. Also included will be a variety of other notable people with at least 10 "at-bats".

Consider a PPR of 2.5 to be great, 2.0 to be good, 1.5 to be marginal, 1.0 to be bad, and anything below 1.0 to be awful.

Sound good?

First, we'll get the non-qualifying candidates out of the way...

Haley Barbour (0/0/0/1/0/0)
Jeb Bush (1/2/0/1/0/0)
Chris Christie (0/1/1/1/1/0)
Mitch Daniels (0/0/0/0/2/0)
Jon Huntsman Jr. (1/0/0/0/0/0)
Gary Johnson (0/1/0/0/0/0)
Fred Karger (0/0/0/0/0/0)
Thad McCotter (0/0/0/0/0/0)
Roy Moore (0/0/0/0/0/0)
Buddy Roemer (0/0/0/0/0/0)

Now that that's done, we'll introduce first Obama, the chain e-mails and the other notables, listed from highest PPR to lowest. A high PPR is, obviously, good. The higher the PPR, the more honest and truthful you are as scored by Politifact.

Dennis Kucinich (8/3/4/1/2/0) 18 at-bats, 58 points, 3.222 PPR
George Will (7/2/3/4/0/0) 16 at-bats, 51 points, 3.188 PPR
Hillary Clinton (32/8/22/15/8/2) 87 at-bats, 241 points, 2.770 PPR
Bob McDonnell (3/3/3/3/0/0) 12 at-bats, 33 points, 2.750 PPR
David Axelrod (2/3/4/2/0/0) 11 at-bats, 29 points, 2.636 PPR
Marco Rubio (8/7/5/4/4/1) 29 at-bats, 74 points, 2.552 PPR
Barack Obama (75/67/71/39/49/4) 305 at-bats, 753 points, 2.469 PPR
Charlie Crist (11/7/7/6/6/2) 39 at-bats, 94 points, 2.410 PPR
Joe Biden (10/9/10/8/5/3) 45 at-bats, 102 points, 2.267 PPR
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (2/3/3/2/2/0) 12 at-bats, 27 points, 2.250 PPR
Jon Kyl (1/3/4/0/2/0) 10 at-bats, 22 points, 2.200 PPR
John Boehner (14/3/4/6/14/1) 42 at-bats, 92 points, 2.190 PPR
Michael Moore (2/4/0/2/3/0) 11 at-bats, 24 points, 2.182 PPR
Rick Scott (8/12/9/5/7/3) 44 at-bats, 96 points, 2.182 PPR
Mitch McConnell (2/2/2/1/3/0) 10 at-bats, 21 points, 2.100 PPR
John McCain (34/31/29/29/38/8) 169 at-bats, 342 points, 2.024 PPR
Harry Reid (2/1/3/2/3/0) 11 at-bats, 21 points, 1.909 PPR
John Kasich (5/4/7/5/6/0) 27 at-bats, 51 points, 1.889 PPR
Rob Portman (2/3/3/2/3/1) 14 at-bats, 26 points, 1.857 PPR
Eric Cantor (4/1/3/2/4/2) 16 at-bats, 29 points, 1.813 PPR
Rachel Maddow (1/3/3/1/4/0) 12 at-bats, 21 points, 1.750 PPR
Scott Walker (5/3/3/6/10/1) 28 at-bats, 45 points, 1.607 PPR
Nancy Pelosi (1/2/7/2/3/2) 17 at-bats, 25 points, 1.471 PPR
Glenn Beck (2/1/5/4/6/5) 23 at-bats, 22 points, 0.957 PPR
Ron Johnson (0/1/1/4/4/0) 10 at-bats, 9 points, 0.900 PPR
Chain e-mails (4/5/6/6/28/49) 98 at-bats, 4 points, 0.041 PPR

The one thing Kucinich will ever win against that field. George Will comes in second place and is the only other person here to crest the 3.0 mark.

And now the Republican candidates, again from best PPR to worst.

Ron Paul (4/5/2/1/1/1) 14 at-bats, 39 points, 2.786 PPR
Mitt Romney (17/7/10/5/9/4) 52 at-bats, 127 points, 2.442 PPR
Rudy Giuliani (7/6/9/7/5/2) 36 at-bats, 76 points, 2.111 PPR
Mike Huckabee (7/2/6/6/4/2) 27 at-bats, 57 points, 2.111 PPR
Tim Pawlenty (1/4/3/2/1/1) 12 at-bats, 24 points, 2.000 PPR
Newt Gingrich (3/3/4/1/3/2) 16 at-bats, 31 points, 1.938 PPR
Paul Ryan (1/1/2/3/0/1) 8 at-bats, 14 points, 1.750 PPR
Sarah Palin (10/6/7/9/13/5) 50 at-bats, 86 points, 1.720 PPR
Mike Pence (3/0/2/3/5/0) 13 at-bats, 22 points, 1.692 PPR
Rick Perry (10/6/19/9/13/7) 64 at-bats, 108 points, 1.688 PPR
Jim DeMint (2/0/0/1/2/1) 6 at-bats, 10 points, 1.667 PPR
Herman Cain (0/2/2/1/3/2) 10 at-bats, 9 points, 0.900 PPR
Donald Trump (0/1/2/0/4/3) 10 at-bats, 4 points, 0.400 PPR
Michelle Bachmann (1/1/2/5/11/7) 27 at-bats, 10 points, 0.370 PPR
Rick Santorum (0/0/1/0/3/1) 5 at-bats, 1 point, 0.200 PPR

Ron Paul wins honors in this field, beating everybody overall but Kucinich and Will. Cain, Trump, Bachmann and Santorum, meanwhile, come in below 1.0, beating nobody but the chain e-mails and each other. (Though Cain can say he ties Ron Johnson.)

Everybody's PPR will flesh out more as the campaign process continues and they get more at-bats. However, for now, it seems a fair starting point.

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