Forget Public Opinion. What Does The Public Record Say About Trump’s Honesty?

On any given day, the question of Trump’s trustworthiness and honesty is astoundingly polarized. For example, in a mid-February opinion poll from UT Austin, 64% of Conservatives rated Trump as honest and trustworthy, while 92% of Liberals said he was not. However, personal opinion doesn’t count as fact, so let’s instead investigate what the public record says.

The PolitiFact database on Donald Trump.

PolitiFact is, according to their “About Us” page, “a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics.” Their staff researches and rates the accuracy of statements in the public record from “speeches, news stories, press releases, campaign brochures, TV ads, Facebook postings and transcripts of TV and radio interviews.”

Of course, since they can’t rate every statement that scribe makes, they select the most newsworthy and significant ones” based on five criteria.

  1. Is the statement rooted in a fact that is verifiable?
  2. Is the statement leaving a particular impression that may be misleading?
  3. Is the statement significant
  4. Is the statement likely to be passed on and repeated by others?
  5. Would a typical person hear or read the statement and wonder: Is that true?

PolitiFact doesn’t lean right or left, but if you are going to engage in the ad hominem attack that “they are criticizing Trump so they are fake media,” then let’s just agree that there is no mountain of evidence that will convince you otherwise. Otherwise, we will take their fact-checking record on Trump as a robust indicator of his level of honesty in public discourse.

Trump’s public record of truthfulness.

PolitiFact rates statements as “True,” “Mostly True,” Half True,” Mostly False,” “False,” and “Pants-on-Fire.” They have rated 376 of Trump’s statements since he declared his candidacy for President. In raw numbers, only 15 of his statements have been True, 45 were Mostly True, 54 were Half True, 76 were Mostly False, 123 were False, and 76 were Pants-on-Fire lies. The graph below shows the breakdown of Trump’s ratings.

Trump's overall percentages of honesty in the public record

All told, 70% of Trump’s statements rated some flavor of false. One out of three statements was patently false and almost one out of every five statements was a flat-out bald-faced lie. Stop and think about this for a moment. Over the last two years, seven out of every ten Trump statements that fact-checkers looked into have been false.

President Trump has been just as dishonest as candidate Trump.

A fair question to ask is, was Trump more dishonest during the campaign than as President, because he spent so much time on the trail slinging mud to assassinating the character of all his competition?  In short, no.

To help, consider at the graph below. We tallied up the number of statements rated by month, which are shown as balls on the plot. The bigger the ball, the more statements rated (the number is given underneath each ball).

Trump's monthly percentages of honesty in the public record

Each ball’s position indicates how many of Trump’s statements that month were rated Mostly False, False, or Pants-on-Fire. The yellow dashed line shows his average rating of 70% False. As you can see, there is no month in the last two years when Trump lied less than half the time. And since the inauguration (the last three balls), his average has been 68% false, essentially the same as his overall record.

In other words, Trump has been just as dishonest after he took office as before. Is it finally fair to label him a pathological liar, not just in the fringe media, but in the public record? Because with stats like these, it is nigh impossible to argue that he is anything else.

How Americans see his honesty and trustworthiness.

As we noted at the outset, Americans are highly polarized by the question of Trump’s honesty. For example, just a few weeks ago the University of Texas found that 70% of Republicans said he was honest and trustworthy, while 85% of Democrats said he was not; Independents leaned 5-to-3 against Trump being honest as well. That’s actually worse for Trump than two weeks prior, when Emerson College reported that “91% of Republicans find the Trump administration truthful, versus 78% of Democrats who find the administration untruthful.”

Trump's honesty & trustworthiness polling
In a CNN/Quinnipiac poll from Feb. 22, 78% of Republicans said they trusted Trump more than the media to tell the truth about important issues. 86% of Democrats trusted the media more, and Independents favored the media 5-to-4. By the way, many readers have misinterpreted the Emerson College poll as saying that more Americans trusted Trump in early February than the media. The pollsters never asked that question, and it has been unethical for anyone to claim that their results suggest such.

Now weigh this against Trump’s public record, which shows that on statements that are verifiable, significant, and which the public widely share, he is false and/or lying 70% of the time. Facts are facts. Trump may have written “The Art of the Deal” but he does not deal in facts, and honesty is not his art.

The fact is that he is a dishonest man. The only question that remains is why Republicans, who make up about one-third of all registered voters, cleave to party loyalty rather than the truth?


Featured image from pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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