PolitiFact readers comment on fact-checking the 2016 election
We regularly talk with readers who subscribe to our free weekly email (sign up here). Last week, we asked our readers these questions about how we did during the 2016 election cycle: "What did PolitiFact do well this election cycle? Where can we improve in the future? Are we giving you the information you need to help you check the facts?"
We received hundreds of responses, much of it very positive about PolitiFact’s work. Here is a brief sample of how you answered our questions. Comments have been edited for style and length.
"Thanks for all you do. My only source of sanity during this election."
"I truly appreciate the service you provide. PolitiFact has been my go-to resource in seeking out truth. My only wish is that more people used fact based findings to make important decisions. Please continue to give truth a voice that can not be denied."
"The one thing the Democrats and the Lame Street media, of which you are part, underestimated was the anger of the Silent Majority. Too many lies and deceit in the past eight years. Too many media cover ups. ... We chose someone with no experience over a continuation of the criminal history on the Democratic side. ... I wish you could have been more diligent in the investigation of the ruling party over the past two terms. You were dishonest in your reporting by not being entirely open on both candidates and the current presidency. So in the end, PolitiFact was honest on what they reported but was not honest in their failure to report."
"This is not necessarily for you, but I have seen many elections, and I do not understand the media coverage any more. I read many reputable sources like yours. Yet while Jimmy Fallon touching Donald Trump's hair was actually in the news, many things -- important things -- were missed. ...The media I have always defended, but honestly, what the media focused on seemed to be about ratings, not facts. Why was the significance of the Russian influence not explained to our young voters? Perhaps educating our young population about the process is in your hands now. I was amazed at how many people seemed unconcerned about the impact of the Russians being involved in the election, and such little time and importance was given to real reporting about Donald Trump's finances."
"I appreciate all your efforts and hard work. It seems it didn't matter. We had a candidate who lied through his teeth constantly. You called him on it and he was still elected president. The offensive rhetoric was beyond the scope of PolitiFact, but that didn't seem to matter either. I have lost faith in the ability of the American people to accurately scrutinize and assess what they hear. Even though a small majority of those who voted found fault, the antiquated system of voting we are under failed us again for the second time in the last 16 years."
"I really found PolitiFact to be extremely helpful in covering both candidates. I thought the coverage was more than fair. I kind of felt you had an agenda to stop Trump but you still stayed focused. It was interesting, and I’m really pleased to see that you plan to continue now that he’s been elected. I doubt that he’ll get much accomplished. In some ways I think he’s as shocked as those of us who didn’t want him that he won. Thank you for your unbiased coverage."
"I've relied on PolitiFact for the whole of this election. I'm a Brit living in France but with friends in the USA, and PolitiFact has been a tremendous source of unbiased information, which has enabled me to talk in a sensible and informed way about the election with other Brit & American expats here. I don't know what I'd have done without you -- probably have been floundering, trying to sort out the lies from the truth."
"Well, for one thing, we need to fact-check the accuracy and depth of polling data. And we need an easier-to-use summary of the facts of each candidate on the issues and less coverage of their personality strengths and foibles. "
"Thanks! I appreciate all seekers of truth. We sorely need you all. I just wish that more people would hear the truth!"
"In my opinion, the ‘establishment’ has become a plutocratic-ruled oligarchy. The two-party system is terminally ill, as is the Electoral College. They are now circling the wagons to protect themselves from the people—the common good. There is far too much privatization in such areas as natural resources, health care, the military, prisons, consumer protection, hunger, entrenched lobbying, public education... Trump will likely be impeached, but then (vice president-elect Mike) Pence, a former tea party talk show host, will take over. It's time to change the establishment."
"PolitiFact was a very useful resource. Unfortunately, as many commentators have suggested, this may have been the bitter end of fact-based campaigning. It was already dying under those swiftboat gunners and birth deniers, but this election, despite your clear contrasting facts, has made an historic, lamentable leap into fiction and rumor, leaving the slippery bonds of truth only as a warning to the losers."
"You and I both appreciate factual analysis. It's why you do what you do, and why I love the work you do. What can you do differently? Nothing. You do awesome work. Thank you. But here's the thing ... especially after this last election cycle, it’s perfectly clear to me that facts just don't matter. Facts are in a direct competition with cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, and the backfire effect. All available evidence indicates that facts are entirely irrelevant in the realm of politics. I feel like I'm at the point where I can point to water and say ‘It's wet,’ and if it didn't correspond with a person’s political beliefs, they would look me in the eyes and say, ‘No, it’s not.’ This is a challenge that I don't know how to address, and it seems to me that it's a major problem. We can keep on saying, ‘Yes, the water is objectively, factually, demonstratively wet.’ But I don't see how that is going to move the discourse forward. Daniel Moynihan famously said, ‘You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.’ I love this quote, but it's observably not true. My question to you is: How do we address this? Do we just keep repeating that the water is indeed wet? Maybe that's all we can do. I've been thinking about this a great deal. I still don't have an alternate approach."
"You provide an invaluable and essential and widely trusted function. Look both ways crossing the street, eat your vegetables and keep on getting enough exercise and sleep. We need you around for a VERY long time!!!"