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The Top Five Smart Politics Reports of 2011

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A look back at some of the most illuminating and controversial of the 200+ Smart Politics reports published this year

republicanparty03.gif (Homepage Feature)After sifting through more than 225 of the at times serious, historical, or whimsical but always data-driven reports penned at Smart Politics this year, below are a handful of stories that perhaps raised the most eyebrows or ruffled the most feathers in 2011...

1. Selection bias at PolitiFact

A study coding 13 months of PolitiFact reports that found the St. Petersburg Times operation giving Republican officials 'pants on fire' or 'false' grades at more than three times the rate as their Democratic counterparts, was a prism by which partisans saw exactly what they wanted to see. For Democrats and the liberal media, it was "proof" that Republicans lied more. For Republicans and conservative outlets, it was long-awaited evidence that one of the nation's most high profile political watchdogs was not a fair, unbiased arbiter. The end result is the study received enough attention to prompt PolitiFact editor Bill Adair to quickly issue a statement on the Principles of PolitiFact in an attempt to shine a little more light on the selection process of the statements they grade.

2. Congressional response to Osama Bin Laden killing

This partisan divide was quite evident in the halls of Congress after the special forces killing of Osama Bin Laden. Smart Politics reviewed the nearly 400 press releases made by U.S. House members after the killing and Democrats were more than twice as likely as Republicans to give Obama commendations for the mission, while Republicans were eight times more likely than Democrats to acknowledge the efforts of President George W. Bush.

3. House Republican freshman all-stars

House freshmen took center stage and flexed their muscle throughout the legislative process of 2011, but only a few of the dozens of new faces dominated the news coverage. A Smart Politics content analysis of ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and NPR reporting found that Republican U.S. Representatives Allen West (FL-22), Joe Walsh (IL-08), and Tim Scott (SC-01) received as much attention as 70 of their freshman colleagues combined.

4. Barack Obama's State of the Union Address

Although he has been lauded for his great intellect and oratory by his supporters and even some opponents, Smart Politics found President Obama's most high profile speeches continued to be written at near record levels of simplicity. Smart Politics studied the 69 orally delivered State of the Union Addresses since the mid-1930s and found the text of Obama's 2011 speech to have notched the second lowest score on the Flesch-Kincaid readability test recorded by a U.S. President. Obama's speech had a Flesch-Kincaid grade level score of just 8.1 - which is a half a grade lower than the 8.8 he tallied in 2010 (which was the fifth lowest during this span). President Obama now has the lowest average Flesch-Kincaid score for State of the Union addresses of any modern president - with his 8.5 grade level falling just below the 8.6 score recorded by George H.W. Bush during his presidency.

5. Gubernatorial portraits

And finally, plucking one story from the whimsical files, comes a Smart Politics report on the symbols of partisanship and patriotism. Smart Politics content analyzed the official portraits of the nation's 50 governors and found that Republicans were more likely to pose with a state or U.S. flag than Democrats and more than eight times as likely to decorate their suit with a lapel flag pin. Republicans were also three times as likely to choose a red tie over a blue tie, whereas the red-vs.-blue tie selection was virtually split down the middle among Democratic governors.

Smart Politics thanks its readership for another record-making year in site traffic, as well as the media, whose growing appetite for creative, non-partisan data-driven reporting generated hundreds and hundreds of feature stories on and citations to Smart Politics reporting across dozens of national and local television, radio, print, and digital outlets.

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2 Comments


  • SP is a daily read for me. Thanks for all that you do, and please keep it up!

    Sincerely,

    A devoted reader in Cleveland, Ohio

  • It is very interesting the Flesch-Kincaid analisys of Obama speechs. Maybe a good presidential staff should have been considered the same analysis before submitting the speech to the public and not only after.

  • Leave a comment


    Remains of the Data

    Who Has Won the Most Votes in US Senate Electoral History?

    Only three of the Top 10 and nine of the Top 50 vote-getters of all time are currently serving in the chamber.

    Political Crumbs

    Six for Thirteen

    Collin Peterson remarked last month that he is leaning to run for reelection to Minnesota's 7th Congressional District in 2016. If he does and is victorious, he will creep even closer to the top of the list of the longest-serving U.S. Representatives in Minnesota history. The DFL congressman is only the sixth Minnesotan to win at least 13 terms to the U.S. House of the 135 elected to the chamber in state history. Peterson trails 18-term DFLer Jim Oberstar (1975-2011), 16-term Republicans Harold Knutson (1917-1949) and August Andresen (1925-1933; 1935-1958), and 14-term DFLers Martin Sabo (1979-2007) and John Blatnik (1947-1974). Andresen died in office, Sabo and Blatnik retired, and Knutson and Oberstar were defeated at the ballot box in 1948 and 2010 respectively. At 70 years, 7 months, 11 days through Monday, Peterson is currently the ninth oldest Gopher State U.S. Representative in history. DFLer Rick Nolan of the 8th CD is the seventh oldest at 71 years, 1 month, 23 days.


    Seeing Red

    Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


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