The truth (so far) behind the 2016 campaign

 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump takes part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on Sep. 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, Calif. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump takes part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on Sep. 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, Calif. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

On March 23, 2015, in a college auditorium in Virginia, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz became the first major candidate to announce his campaign for president.

From then until now -- a span of 465 days -- PolitiFact has been watching the candidates and fact-checking their claims. Through June 29, we have published 650 fact-checks of the presidential candidates on our Truth-O-Meter.

That’s more than one new fact-check a day, and as you can imagine, a lot of Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire claims.

We get asked all the time how the candidates compare. We often fret the question because we don’t fact-check every claim a politician makes (we’d never sleep), and we may fact-check a statement multiple times if candidates keep repeating themselves. GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump, for instance, has often made the False claim that the United States is "the highest taxed nation in the world," and we've fact-checked it four times.

https://www.sharethefacts.co/share/47580da1-0ab9-4364-9263-df742fd2e8a0

But as we looked over our work from the past 16 months and 650 fact-checks, some broad patterns stood out.

1. Who we’re fact-checking

Through June 29, 2016, we’ve fact-checked Trump more than any other candidate — 158 times. That’s to be expected. Trump made himself more available on television in the early part of his campaign than his Democratic or Republican rivals. Trump also participated in more debates (11 by our count) than either of the top Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.


2. The candidates on the Truth-O-Meter

While the 2016 campaign has been criticized as being fact-free, the most awarded rating to the presidential candidates has actually been Mostly True.

But don’t read too much into that.

Of the 650 claims we’ve fact-checked, it’s almost equally split among claims that rate True, Mostly True and Half True, and claims rating Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire.


3. Clinton vs. Trump

The two presumptive nominees are the two most fact-checked candidates of the campaign. But their records are markedly different. Remember, these rankings only include the statements we’ve fact-checked after Clinton and Trump formally entered the race for president.


4. Whose pants are on fire?

Trump has more statements rated Pants on Fire, 30, than the 21 other candidates for president we’ve fact-checked this cycle combined.

Second on the list? Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, with four Pants on Fire claims. Bernie Sanders has yet to receive a Pants on Fire rating in the 2016 election.


5. More about Trump

Ninety-five of the 158 fact-checks of claims made by Trump have been rated False or Pants on Fire. Add in Mostly False and that accounts for 123 (78 percent) of all of Trump’s fact-checked claims.


6. More about Clinton

Just 16 of Clinton’s 120 rated statements ended up as False or Pants on Fire. By contrast, 53 percent of the statements we fact-checked were rated True or Mostly True.


7. So how do we do this?

It’s another question we get all the time, and the answer is part of what makes PolitiFact special. We use only on-the-record sources and list all of the sources we consult as part of any fact-check. While the author of a fact-check recommends a rating on our Truth-O-Meter, the decision is left to a panel of three editors who vote like a jury. Majority rules.

It’s the same process since we started in 2007 covering the 2008 presidential campaign, and the same process we’ve used for each and every of our nearly 14,000 fact-checks published.

This video, which was made for our sister site PunditFact, does a good job of explaining the process in a bit more detail.