EDITOR’S NOTE: We initially published our fact check of Gingrich’s comment on Sept. 20, 2013, with a rating of False. Soon after, CNN provided us with additional information. After we looked into their data, we rewrote and republished the story the same day, changing the rating to Half True. The original item has been archived here.
A faceoff on CNN’s Crossfire between Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, produced a robust debate over how best to promote a state’s economic growth and quality of life. It also produced a blizzard of statistics with varying degrees of accuracy.
One of the disputes focused on the two states’ population growth, with co-host Newt Gingrich suggesting that Texas was growing and Maryland shrinking because of their economic performance.
Here’s the exchange:
O’Malley: "One of the key differences between our two states, Newt, is that our state was ranked among the top three in upward economic mobility. Texas was ranked among the worst states in terms of downward economic mobility."
Gingrich: "Let me ask you this. As an objective fact, in the five years you've been governor, Texas has gained 440,000 people. According to the U.S. Census, Maryland has lost 20,000. Now, if we're having all this upward trajectory, why is Texas doing 22 times better in population migration over the last five years than Maryland?"
O’Malley: "Actually, you need to check your facts. We've actually added 230,000 people. And we've actually grown by 4 percent. But that fact is dubiously put out by some blogs."
Gingrich: "This is the U.S. Census."
We turned to the source Gingrich cited: the U.S. Census Bureau.
The bureau not only counts the United States’ population every 10 years but also estimates population every year in between. We looked at the population estimates for the five-year period between 2007, the year O’Malley took office, and 2012, the most recent year available. Here’s the summary:
Using these numbers, O’Malley is correct. Maryland didn’t lose 20,000 people in the past five years; as O’Malley correctly noted, Maryland gained just over 230,000 people during that period. O’Malley was also essentially correct about the percentage increase for Maryland -- 4.1 percent.
Meanwhile, Texas didn’t gain 440,000 people over the past five years, as Gingrich had said. The Lone Star State actually gained many more -- upwards of 2.2 million new Texans over five years.
However, Gingrich can also claim accuracy by looking at a different set of statistics. He can point to numbers for migration -- that is, the net change in people who moved into or out of a state from other states. This number, unlike the one O’Malley used, excludes births, deaths and foreign immigration.
The Census figures show that between 2007 and 2012, Maryland has lost a net of 22,774 people. Over the same period, Texas has gained 423,273 people. That’s less than Gingrich had indicated, but all in all, it’s pretty close.
Gingrich said that since 2007, "Texas has gained 440,000 people" while "Maryland has lost 20,000." O’Malley countered that Maryland has added 230,000 people.
Essentially, they’re both right -- they just used different measurements. O’Malley is right if you use overall population figures, while Gingrich is right if you look at migration from other states. We’ll split the difference and call this one Half True.