Fact checking trending in 2012

By Kaley Fowler

By Kaley Fowler and Charles Jefferson, Metro Editor and Contributing Writer

Fact checkers abound in the 2012 presidential election, and they are casting new light on polls and political statements in an effort to properly inform the public.

According to Bill Adair, editor of the fact-checking website PolitiFact.org, verifying facts has become crucial in this year’s election because of the vast amount of available information.

“People are getting more information from different sources more than ever,” Adair said. “[Fact checkers] play an important role in telling [voters] what is true and what’s not.”

Adair said it is key that voters hold politicians accountable for their mistakes, which is why fact-checking services have been popular during this campaign season. Websites such as PolitiFact, FactCheck.org and ABCNews.com have emerged as leading fact checkers, he said.

“I think it’s good [that] people [not only] review the work of politicians, but review the work of fact checkers and hold us accountable as well,” Adair said.

Real-time fact checking has also gained popularity, especially during the presidential debates. As the candidates speak, fact checkers research their points and reveal the inaccuracies online minutes later.

Poll interpreters, who examine electoral polls to determine if they unfairly favor a certain candidate, have also gained prominence in this year’s election.

According to Dean Chambers, creator of UnskewedPolls.com, a website that examines polls from multiple sources to accurately predict election results, many polls are unfairly biased toward a specific political party.

“Media outlets simply use skewed polls to create an illusion that one candidate is doing much better than he really is,” said Chambers, who is a well-known Conservative Republican blogger. “The pollsters do the skewing by [selecting] what kind of sample they gather or how they weigh the sample they gather.”

The polls in this election are more distorted than in previous elections, according to Brooks Jackson, director of FactCheck.org. He explained that fact checkers counteract such baises by including links to their sources in their reporting, making them more reliable than typical news outlets that do not always provide explicit source information.

“You don’t have to take our word for it,” Jackson said. “You can look at our footnotes and our links. It’s clear where we get our information from.”

Jackson explained that it is customary for voters to frequent one news outlet that favors their preferred candidate. However, he said it is necessary to look to multiple sources for accurate election information.

Chambers agreed that viewers should look beyond the scope of news outlets that appear to highlight only one candidate. He said some networks, such as CNN and MSNBC, are becoming better about being less biased, but more transparency and objectivity is needed across the board.

He said numerous outlets have pegged President Barack Obama as having a clear advantage over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney throughout campaign season, but he believes slanted polls may have contributed to Obama’s overwhelming lead.

“By using skewed polls to show Obama leading by more than he was, [news organizations] deliberately created an illusion that he has more support among voters than he does, and that his re-election [is] inevitable,” Chambers said.

While fact checkers do their best to provide the public with accurate information, polls regarding the election should still be taken with a grain of salt, according to Jackson.

“Treat polls for what they are: an imperfect and sometimes inaccurate measure of how a vote might come out today, but not necessarily on Election Day,” Jackson said.