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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

    Kevin McCarthy Becomes Least Tenured Floor Leader in US House History

    At less than four terms, McCarthy has served 423 fewer days in the chamber than any floor leader in U.S. House history and almost 10 years less than the average leader.

    Political Crumbs

    The Second Time Around

    Former Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez became the seventh major party or second place gubernatorial candidate in Colorado to get a second chance at the office when he narrowly won his party's nomination last month. Two of the previous six candidates were successful. Democrat Alva Adams lost his first gubernatorial bid to Benjamin Eaton in 1884, but was victorious two years later against William Meyer. Democrat Charles Johnson placed third in 1894 behind Republican Albert McIntyre and Populist incumbent Governor David Waite but returned as the Fusion (Democrat/Populist) nominee in 1898 and defeated GOPer Henry Wolcott. Gubernatorial candidates who received a second chance but lost both general elections include Democrat Thomas Patterson (1888, 1914), Progressive Edward Costigan (1912, 1914), Republican Donald Brotzman (1954, 1956), and Republican David Strickland (1978, 1986).


    How Are the Plurality Winners Doing?

    Nearly 40 percent of plurality winners of U.S. Senate elections lose their seat in the next election cycle. Will that happen to any of the three such incumbents on the ballot in 2014? Recent polling suggests Democrats Al Franken of Minnesota, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Jeff Merkley of Oregon all currently have an advantage over their nominated/frontrunning GOP opponents, but each is flirting with plurality support once again. Franken led endorsed GOPer Mike McFadden 48 to 42 percent in a new SurveyUSA poll while the polling group showed Merkley with a 50 to 32 percent advantage over Monica Wehby. Begich led each of the three major GOP candidates in last month's PPP survey: 42 to 37 percent over Daniel Sullivan, 41 to 33 percent over Mead Treadwell, and 43 to 27 percent over Joe Miller.


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