Fox Nation vs. Reality: On Obama And History

See Fox News Update Below

The latest mutation of reality by the folks at Fox Nation presents another fun house ride through Fantasyland. Check out the headline posting on Sunday night:

Fox Nation

The posting links to an article at the Moonie Washington Times that purports to have analyzed presidential elections and arrived at the following conclusion:

“Of all the presidents since World War II whose job-approval scores were lower than 50 percent one year before Election Day, only one went on to win a second term.”

On the surface, that’s an accurate conclusion. However, taking a closer look at the analysis reveals that the brilliant minds at the Washington Times calculated the electoral fates of all of the low-scoring incumbents – all three of them (Nixon, Ford, and Carter). Consequently, the conclusion is meaningless from a statistical point of view. It would be just as accurate to say that:

Of all the presidents since World War II whose job-approval scores were lower than 50 percent one year before Election Day, all were reelected except for two.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? It certainly doesn’t sound nearly as desperate as Fox’s version that predicts Obama as a loser. Fox’s version also leaves out this commentary by Larry Sabato that was included in the Washington Times article:

“Presidential approval one full year out is not helpful in determining what will occur in November 2012.” Mr. Sabato said.

The only opinion in the article that affirms the conclusion in the Fox Nation headline is from the article’s author, Dave Boyer. And he offers no support whatsoever for that opinion. In fact, Boyer’s opinion is contradicted by his own reporting. He quotes Sabato as saying that the predictive value of approval ratings is only significant in the summer and fall months just prior to the election, not so much a year away. So not only is there not enough statistical data to draw a conclusion, the data they are using is irrelevant.

Nevertheless, Fox Nation composed their own headline that exacerbated the flaws in the Washington Times’ reporting. And the Fox Nationalists proved once again that they can’t tell reality from fiction. Or more accurately, they choose to present fiction as fact.

[Update: 11/7/11] Not surprisingly, Fox News has adopted the false premises described above. Megyn Kelly led off a segment this morning on the electoral history of low approval rated incumbents saying that in fifty years only one was reelected. Of course she neglected to note that in fifty years only two failed to win reelection. She might also have said that in the entire 235 year history of America an African-American presidential incumbent has NEVER lost reelection. So there you have it. Numbers don’t lie (but Fox does).

This is an excellent example of how bogus stories bubble up from disreputable sources like the Washington Times to mass media outlets like Fox News.


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