PolitiFact recently published a list of their Truth-O-Meter rulings that the candidates and their "surrogates
" have said regarding foreign policy
, including Iraq and Afghanistan
. Because this is a small and probably biased sample of rulings, it gives me an opportunity to demonstrate the power of Malark-O
-Meter to show how much signal there is amid the noise when it comes to how much malarkey candidates spew. It also gives me a chance to showcase Malark-O
-Meter's current limitations.
This is quick and dirty because the debates begin soon. So let me know if there are any mistakes.
I collated the statements made by red and blue candidates and their surrogates into a red pile and a blue pile. Then I used Malark-O-Meter's simulation methods
to simulate the probability distribution of the individual foreign-policy-specific malarky scores
, and to simulate ratio of the red team's foreign-policy-specific malarkey to the blue team's foreign-policy-specific malarkey. Then I calculated the 95% confidence interval (95% CI) of the individual scores and the ratio, and calculated the probability that the red team spews more foreign-policy-specific malarkey (FPSM) than the blue team.
Here are the results:
- Blue team's FPSM -- mean: 50; 95% CI: 36 to 64 (so, maybe half truthful)
- Red team's FPSM -- mean: 56; 95% CI: 36 to 75 (so, maybe a little more than half full of malarkey)
- Ratio -- mean: 1.15; 95% CI: 0.68 to 1.73
- Probability that the red team spews more FPSM that the blue team is about 70%.
So according to the analysis, there are only slightly better than 2 to 1 odds that the red team spews more malarkey than the blue team, but we expect the difference between the two teams to be pretty small (yes, I've been calling the Republicans and Democrats the red and blue team for the last few paragraphs).
But what does this mean? Well, PolitiFact chose precisely the same number of statements for each team. Maybe they subconsciously chose rulings that in aggregate downplay any the difference between the teams. Or maybe PolitiFact has a liberal bias, as some allege. In that case, we'd expect them to inflate the relationship between the two, or even invert it if their bias is strong enough. If both biases act in tandem, we might expect a small difference favoring the blue team.
But honestly, all of this is hand waving. We need more evidence to know if such biases exist and how strong they are. And we need more statements on foreign policy from each team. Well, we're going to get the latter tonight. As for the former. Well. Some day.
For what it's worth, however, this is evidence. I encourage you to gather more and to share it with me. But based on this evidence, I predict that Romney will spew somewhat more malarkey tonight than Obama.
And yes, I'm going to examine that question tomorrow (after I do some field work for my dissertation project).