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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

    Strange Bedfellows: A Historical Review of Divided US Senate Delegations

    Over the last century, states have been twice as likely to be represented by a single political party in the U.S. Senate than have a split delegation; only Delaware, Iowa, and Illinois have been divided more than half the time.

    Political Crumbs

    Haugh to Reach New Heights

    The North Carolina U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis may go down to the wire next Tuesday, but along the way Libertarian nominee Sean Haugh is poised to set a state record for a non-major party candidate. Haugh, who previously won 1.5 percent of the vote in the Tar Heel State's 2002 race, has polled at or above five percent in 10 of the last 12 polls that included his name. The current high water mark for a third party or independent candidate in a North Carolina U.S. Senate election is just 3.3 percent, recorded by Libertarian Robert Emory back in 1992. Only one other candidate has eclipsed the three percent mark - Libertarian Christopher Cole with 3.1 percent in 2008.


    Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

    Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


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