Facts are under assault in 2020.
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A graphic "voter guide" circulating on social media – like this one on Facebook and a similar version on Instagram – paints a stark picture of the policy differences between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, portraying the candidates as polar opposites on every issue from taxes to police funding and foreign policy.
The guide gets it right on some counts. But overall, it does not accurately capture the candidates’ stances on most of the 14 issues listed. The guide’s yes-or-no approach to the policy proposals makes it appear that the candidates’ positions fit neatly into familiar, partisan categories, when the reality is often more complex.
The graphic was produced by "Citizen Action USA," whose website includes only the downloadable voter guide and a donation link. The website says the voter guide is paid for by Affirm America, an organization that says it distributed a similar guide before the 2016 election. Neither Citizen Action USA nor Affirm America list identifying information about their organizations, such as officers or tax status, on their websites or social media accounts. But one of the designers of the of the group’s 2016 voter guide has tweeted pro-Trump messages and promoted the 2020 guide. Overall, the voter scorecard seems to be promoting Trump’s positions over Biden’s.
Here’s a point-by-point breakdown of the graphic and how its claims stack up against the facts.
The scorecard accurately claims that Biden is a "yes" on $4 trillion in new taxes. It’s his goal to raise that much in tax revenue over a decade, according to the Tax Policy Center. About 93% of the tax increases would be borne by the top 20% of earners, based on the center’s analysis. PolitiFact has found that Biden promised no tax hikes for those making less than $400,000 per year.
Trump’s plans would cut taxes by about $1.7 trillion over 10 years, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, an independent, nonpartisan think tank. The committee points out, though, that Trump’s campaign did not release a formal policy agenda, so the lack of detail makes it difficult to predict potential outcomes. Trump’s policies could result in anywhere from $1.4 trillion to $2.95 trillion in tax cuts, but the think tank settled on $1.7 trillion as a central estimate.
Biden supports redirecting some police funding — different from the concept of defunding police — so the graphic accurately portrays him as a "yes." During a video interview, Biden was asked if he is open to reforms that would redirect some police funding to social services, mental health counseling and affordable housing. He answered, "Yes. I proposed that kind of reform." Biden opposes defunding the police, PolitiFact has reported, though a Trump campaign ad and some conservatives have repeatedly tried to claim that he supports it.
The graphic says Trump is a "no" on redirecting police funding, but in practice, if not in rhetoric, he has supported it. After nationwide protests against police violence, Trump signed an executive order in June that sought to redistribute existing federal funding for police, according to U.S. News & World Report. The executive order aims to pair police with social workers on certain calls involving homelessness, addiction and mental health. It also prioritized federal funding for cities with police departments that meet specific metrics for officer training and community-building.
Like Biden, Trump opposes defunding the police, which he has repeatedly proclaimed in speeches, rallies and tweets, according to ABC News.
The scorecard inaccurately claims Biden is a "no" on parental choice in education. Biden opposes vouchers for private schools; his campaign previously told PolitiFact that he "opposes the Trump/(Betsy) DeVos conception of ‘school choice,’ which is private school vouchers that would destroy our public schools." Biden also opposes for-profit and low-performing charter schools.
However, he supports other options for parental choice in education, including high-performing public charter schools, specialized magnet schools such as those for the arts, and allowing students to choose between public schools. All of those are considered to be types of school choice by EdChoice, an education advocacy group which also counts vouchers in that category.
Trump has been a vocal advocate of school choice, calling it "the civil rights statement of the year, of the decade, and probably beyond," and his administration’s policies have favored vouchers and charter schools, according to Forbes.
Trump has tried to parlay parents’ frustration and anger over school closures during the coronavirus pandemic into support for his school choice policies, the Associated Press reported. His administration sought to shift federal virus aid away from public schools to private schools--a move that was struck down by a federal judge--and used some virus relief funding to create grants families could use to pay for private school, according to the AP.
The graphic portrays Biden as a "no" and Trump as a "yes" on reopening schools and businesses during the pandemic, but the facts are more nuanced. Both have supported reopening, but their answers differ on when and how.
In the summer, Biden said school districts should make their own decisions based on conditions in their area, and that schools in areas where virus spread is rampant should not open too soon, the Washington Post reported. A few months later, he called reopening schools an "emergency" and proposed using national disaster funds to help them reopen safely, according to CNBC.
For businesses, Biden proposed in June an eight-step plan for reopening safely, the Washington Post reported, including increasing testing, making sure workers have access to protective gear, guaranteeing paid sick leave and building out the nation’s ability to contract trace.
Trump has insisted that all schools should fully reopen immediately, threatening their federal funding if they do not. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that schools modify layouts for social distancing, among other safety measures, but Trump said the agency’s guidelines were too stringent.
Trump pressed for an earlier reopening of the economy than Biden did, and in April his administration provided a road map for governors to reopen states in a "phased and deliberate approach," the AP reported. The plan sought to gradually reopen in areas where virus transmission was on the decline, and to wait for improvement in areas where virus transmission was still high before beginning reopening.
Despite the scorecard’s characterization of Biden as a "no" and Trump as "yes" when it comes to China posing a threat, the two have similar China policies, PolitiFact has found. That’s true even though their campaign messages say otherwise.
Along with many others in both political parties, Biden previously believed that integrating China into the world’s economy would lead it to liberalize. But Biden and others have shifted and now are more wary of the economic and geopolitical threat China poses. PolitiFact reported that Biden has called China’s leader "a thug," has written that the U.S. needs to "get tough with China" and has vowed to impose "swift economic sanctions" if Beijing attempts to silence U.S. companies for exercising their First Amendment rights.
Trump has targeted China as a threat since his 2016 campaign. While in office he has taken an aggressive stance, taxing billions of dollars of Chinese products and withdrawing from multinational institutions including the World Health Organization which he sees as subject to China’s influence, according to PolitiFact.
Both candidates’ positions on requiring photo identification to vote are accurately represented by the graphic, which says Biden is a "no" and Trump is a "yes."
In December 2019, Biden wrote about voter ID laws,in an op-ed in The State, a South Carolina newspaper: "These laws aren’t about fraud. They’re about making it harder for people of color to vote, and it’s just as un-American today as it was during Jim Crow."
Trump has repeatedly tried to convince the public of the threat of voter fraud. At a 2019 rally in New Hampshire, he said, "It’s also time for Democrats to join with us to protect the sacred integrity of our elections by supporting voter ID."
Biden plans to increase gun control, as the scorecard indicates. On his campaign website, Biden says if elected, he will ban assault weapons, require that existing assault weapons be registered under the National Firearms Act and ban the online sale of guns, ammo and parts.
On the campaign trail, Trump appears to oppose increased gun control and has repeatedly warned voters that Democrats want to take their guns away.
While in office, though, Trump’s record on the issue has been mixed, according to FactCheck.org. Some gun-control actions have advanced with his support, such as banning bump stocks that can make semi-automatic guns fire like fully automatic weapons, while other measures, such as universal background checks, have stalled during his tenure.
The graphic says Biden is a "no" on fracking, coal and gas, but that’s inaccurate because Biden does not universally oppose those things. PolitiFact noted on Sept. 25 that we’ve examined Biden’s position on fracking several times and are confident he hasn't called for an immediate ban. He wants to block new permits for drilling on public land, but the vast majority of fracking takes place on private land.
During the first presidential debate in September, Biden addressed coal production, saying, "Nobody’s going to build another coal-fired power plant in America." He had just finished explaining that the reason coal plants would not be built is that companies would opt for renewable energies that are more cost-effective, not because he would ban coal.
Broadly speaking, Biden supports clean electricity and his proposals would involve creating a pollution-free power sector by 2035.
Trump is a "yes" on fracking, coal and gas, as the graphic indicates. His administration worked to help the coal industry after promising it during his 2016 campaign, and has also auctioned off drilling rights to oil and gas developers at a much faster pace than under the Obama administration, causing fracking to "boom" on public lands, according to the New York Times.
The scorecard claims that Biden is a "yes" when it comes to "releasing criminals without bail," but that wording misrepresents the concept of bail. People who pay bail have not been found guilty of the crime for which they are charged. The intent of bail reform, which is happening in cities and states across the country, is to keep those accused of certain crimes out of jail while waiting for trial, regardless of their ability to afford bail, PolitiFact has reported.
It’s accurate that Biden seeks to eliminate cash bail, which his campaign website calls "the modern-day debtors’ prison."
Trump does not appear to support releasing those accused of crimes without bail. He falsely claimed that by ending cash bail, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent the crime rate "through the roof.". New York eliminated cash bail for some offenses, but researchers told PolitiFact that preliminary analyses do not support Trump’s claim that the change is linked to the spike in crime.
The graphic’s wording — "build up military" — is vague and could encompass several things, from military spending to acquiring new equipment, but it says Biden is a "no" and Trump is a "yes" in this amorphous category.
Biden told the Washington Post that the nation should reassess its defense budget. And when asked if military spending levels should increase or decrease, Biden answered, "We can maintain a strong defense and protect our safety and security for less," in a candidates’ questionnaire from the Military Officers Association of America. He said rather than spending on "legacy" systems, investments are needed in technology and innovations such as artificial intelligence, to address "threats of the future."
Trump has claimed that he completely rebuilt the military at a cost of $2.5 trillion, but PolitiFact found that to be Mostly False. That figure represents the total defense budgets over four fiscal years, and most weapons and infrastructure have remained unchanged during Trump’s administration. Trump also has alternately claimed to have signed the first military pay raise in 10 years and the highest military pay raise in 10 years. The raise was neither the first nor the highest in 10 years.
The scorecard got this one right: Biden does not support continued construction of a Southern border wall, and Trump does.
Biden said he would not continue construction of the border wall if elected, according to PolitiFact, which also reported that Biden would not remove what’s already been built. Biden has said he plans to focus border security efforts at the nation’s ports of entry.
For Trump, construction of a Southern border wall was a centerpiece of his first campaign and his presidency, though most of what has occurred so far is replacement of older barriers with new fences, rather than new construction in unprotected areas.
Biden has not said he supports late-term abortions, so the scorecard inaccurately portrays him as a "yes" on this issue.
Biden said he supports Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion and allows states to regulate it, and he is opposed to state laws that conflict with it. He also said he would seek to codify the provisions of Roe vs. Wade into law.
Trump called for legislation banning late-term abortions in his 2019 State of the Union address, and the graphic correctly says he is a "no" on late-term abortions.
Both of the candidates have proposed U.S.-centric trade policies, despite the scorecard calling Biden a "no" and Trump a "yes" in this category. Biden’s trade policies focus on reviving American manufacturing. He proposes a $700 billion plan that would increase government purchasing of goods and services made in the U.S. and invest in research and development of U.S. technology, CNBC reported.
Trump’s trade policies are aimed at encouraging U.S. job growth and exports, PolitiFact has reported. He has implemented tariffs intended to improve U.S. competitiveness with other nations, PolitiFact said, and he overhauled NAFTA with backing from many Democrats,.
The graphic calls Biden a "no," and that fits with his comments to the National Guard Association of the United States that he would never use the military "as a prop or private militia," according to the AP. He said Trump’s use of U.S. forces to quell domestic protests was a violation of citizens’ rights. Biden has been clear on his position that those who loot and set fires should be prosecuted, according to the New York Times.
Trump is a "yes" on sending federal agents into cities during protests, as the scorecard indicates. He sent agents into cities even when protests were largely peaceful, PolitiFact reported.
ABC News, "Fact Check: Both Biden and Trump say their rival wants to defund the police," Aug. 24, 2020
Affirm America, "Voter guide sparks interest at East Coast rallies," Sept. 29, 2020
Associated Press, "Biden, aiming at Trump, says he won’t use military as ‘prop,’" Aug. 30, 2020
Associated Press, "Trump campaigns as a Second Amendment warrior," Feb. 11, 2020
Associated Press, "Trump, DeVos raise school choice in appeal to vexed parents," Sept. 15, 2020
Associated Press, "Trump gives governors options on how to reopen the economy," April 17, 2020
CNBC, "Joe Biden proposes a $700 billion-plus ‘Buy American’ campaign," July 9, 2020
CitizenActionUSA, accessed Oct. 13, 2020
Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, "The Cost of the Trump and Biden Campaign Plans," Oct. 7, 2020
EdChoice.org, "Types of school choice," accessed Oct. 11, 2020
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Forbes, "Trump: School Choice is the civil rights statement of the year," June 16, 2020
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PolitiFact, "Biden says Trump wants to cut local law enforcement aid. That’s correct," Aug. 25, 2020
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PolitiFact, "Donald Trump weaves Joe Biden into his false claims about the border wall," Aug. 28, 2020
PolitiFact: "Explained: How Trump and Biden would confront China," Sept. 14, 2020
PolitiFact, "Facebook post wrongly claims Biden would hike tax rates for family earning $75,000," Aug. 20, 2020
PolitiFact, "Fact-checking Pence’s claim on Democrats and abortion ‘up to the moment of birth’," Oct. 9, 2020
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PolitiFact, "No, Joe Biden isn’t ‘on board with defunding police’", Aug. 5, 2020
PolitiFact, "Pence takes Biden’s comments on police funding, ‘enemy’ out of context," July 10, 2020
PolitiFact, "Trump’s claim linking crime rates to bail reform lacks evidence," Aug. 29, 2020
PolitiFact, "Trump exaggerates spending on U.S. military rebuild," Jan. 10, 2020
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