Thursday, October 30th, 2014

By request: keeping count

Since we launched PolitiFact eight months ago, we've heard from many readers who wanted a tally of our Truth-O-Meter rulings for each candidate. Some suggested we create an average for each candidate, while others said they'd simply like a count of each candidate's ratings.

So beginning today, we're including a count on our page for each candidate and group. It uses a bar graph that automatically adjusts with each new Truth-O-Meter ruling to show the count of Trues, Half Trues, etc.

We believe the tally will provide you with a helpful summary of our rulings, but we want to point out a few caveats.

Because we can't check every statement a candidate makes (a task that would be virtually impossible), you won't be able to conclude that "20 percent of his/her statements are false." The breakdown simply reflects the number of Trues, Half Trues, etc. of the items we checked.

Along those lines, it's important to know that we only check claims that we're curious or suspicious about. We don't normally check things that we're sure are true, so the breakdown is likely to be skewed toward falsehoods.

Our goal is to help voters learn about the candidates, so we only check things that we believe voters will wonder about. But for that reason, we don't think it's accurate to calculate an average rating for a candidate.

Also, you should keep in mind that we have occasionally explored the same fact more than once if a candidate kept saying it and we wondered if the circumstances had changed or the claim was now accurate. For example, we wrote two items about Sen. Barack Obama saying in December and February that gas prices were at a record high. Those claims were wrong both times and earned him two False items in our database. (If he were to say it now, it would be True.)

In addition to our candidate tallies, you'll also find these other improvements:

• New features on our candidate pages allow you to find particular Truth-O-Meter items for each candidate. You can see all their True ratings (or all their Pants on Fire items). By using our Statements by Issue bos, you can see all the items for that candidate on a particular issue.

• We've created a new tab on our home page to highlight our extensive coverage of chain e-mails. We've published many articles and Truth-O-Meter items about the e-mails because we've found many voters get their information from them — and the information is often wrong.

• We've created a new tab to highlight our Fact Sheets, which are concise summaries of the candidates' positions, endorsements and records.

• We've created a page that lists all of the "voices" that we've checked — the candidates, past and present, as well as independent groups, party organizations and even Spike the Romney Attack Dog.

Spike is a symbol of the broad approach we take at PolitiFact: we'll check anyone — and any group — that barks.

How to contact us

Email comments and suggestions for fact-checks to truthometer@politifact.com or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. (If you send us a comment, we'll assume you don't mind us publishing it unless you tell us otherwise.)

We're especially interested in any chain emails or social media memes that you would like us to check out.