J.L. Bell at Oz and Ends counted the number of rumors about President G.W. Bush and President Obama that were identified and determined by rumor-validation site, snopes.com, to be true, false, a mixture of true and false, or uncertain. It turns out, there are a lot more rumors and a lot more false rumors about Obama than there were about Bush:
Jay Livingston summarizes:
In less than two years, Obama rumor-mongers have had nearly twice the output that their Bush counterparts managed in eight years – 87 to 47. And while the Bush rumors split almost evenly true-false, false Obama rumors dwarfed the true ones. The false rumors about Obama outnumbered the total number of rumors about Bush. And while the lies about Obama are almost all negative, some of the false rumors about Bush are quite flattering, along the lines of the George Washington cheery tree rumor – like the rumor that had Bush paying for the funeral of a boy who had drowned near the Crawford ranch.
Looking closer at the mixed rumors, Bell reports that:
I delved down to the stories that the site designates as a mixture of truth and falsehood. For Obama, in most cases the truth is innocuous while the lie reflects poorly on the President, particularly photographs that are misrepresented or show behavior that produced no complaints when his predecessors did the same. In contrast, in this mixture of truth and falsehood about George W. Bush praying with an injured soldier, the lie reflected well on that President…
Looking at the last two Presidential candidate losers reveals the same pattern: more false rumors about Kerry than McCain.
Bell interprets this evidence to mean that Republicans fight dirtier than Democrats. What do you think?Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
akeeyu — May 18, 2010
My husband always says that the main difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Democrats want people to accomplish their goals by convincing people to agree with them, and Republicans don't really give a shit if people agree with them, they just want to accomplish their goals.
This leads to an 'ends justifying the means' mentality, so yes, I do believe that Republicans fight dirtier.
Aside from that, Republicans and conservatives are frequently an older demographic and may not have access to, interest in or any faith in the Internet.
It's easy enough for people accustomed to the Internet to check Snopes or factcheck.org and follow links to other news sources to verify or disprove rumors, but Aunt Millie* in the old folks' home may be more likely to listen to radio shows and friends rather than research the veracity of others' claims.
*Not to imply that all people in retirement communities are averse to the Internet, or that YOUR Aunt Millie doesn't love facebook and check all her chain letters through Snopes (mine does), but in general, younger people are earlier and more confident adopters of new technology.
Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist — May 18, 2010
I think it's true that Republicans fight dirtier than Democrats. I love how they call liberals "pussies" because liberals believe in compromise and progress, while conservatives & Republicans don't, they are close-minded and think they are always right while everyone else is wrong.
Alan — May 18, 2010
Maybe the Obama rumors just disseminate more effectively because the people who read them are less skeptical, on average?
J — May 18, 2010
It's pretty simple, Obama has been pushing change on a lot of very fundamental problems, fundamental problems that make certain groups very rich. Very rich groups use their very rich money to hire PR firms to spread blatant lies in order to stop things from changing. Bush, a conservative, did not try to do this, and in fact, most of his changes made said people very rich so any money they would spend on PR would be to support his positions.
Cynthia — May 18, 2010
I think the entire nation has become politically dysfunctional, and people who can't interact in a rational way become even more attached to believing outrageous stories about the bad deed of the "other" side, whichever that is, and spreading around such stories without trying to check on their accuracy.
Jeff Kaufman — May 18, 2010
I don't trust this data source. It's hard to remember what the internet was like back in 2001, but it really was a lot smaller. Wikipedia had just been launched, there were less than 1/3 as many people online . The use of the internet for politics has also been increasing. The right comparison would be bush rumors from 2001 when he had just 'won' a heavily contested election with obama rumors now. And because those rumors would have been primarily offline in 2001, it's hard to get the data we'd need.
Barbara Parks — May 18, 2010
Excellent point, Jeff. With that in mind, it is a little hard to put much faith in the data.
D — May 18, 2010
I find this absolutely fascinating. I'm Australian and our left and right parties, while they definitely take part in petty arguments and smear campaigns, they stop short of making up blatant lies about each other's policies, behaviour and background, and I find it reprehensible that anyone would do this.
Curiously, though, both the main Australian parties both tend to attack each other equally, whereas in the US, obviously the conservatives are the main perpetrators.
Calvin — May 19, 2010
I take issue with the notion that dirty rumors is inherent to conservative perspectives. Rumor slinging can occur within party (e.g., Clinton vs. Obama in the primaries, Cory Booker vs. Sharpe James in the Newark mayorship[see the documentary Street Fight for an illustration]), and with liberal mud-slinging upon conservatives (e.g., Corzine vs. Christie in the NJ governorship[see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOrP3vqEdzM for Christie 'throwing his weight' around]).
Although I think the disparities between Obama and Bush may be mainly related to the intersection of other factors, such as ethnicity and race, I think some of the differences in other elections may be attributed to other more benign factors. These rumors only show the quantity, not the pervasiveness of the rumors. While one campaign may throw out a variety of rumors (perhaps inter-related), the other campaign may focus on emphasizing and spreading several specific rumors.
Kishh — May 19, 2010
I'm not really sure if it's just based on the war between Republicans and Democrats. We have to keep in mind that Obama is black, and Bush is white. Not to generalize (look at the chaos from the first comment, lol) but America seems to be more aware of race and such. Remember in the campaigning, a lot of people were saying, "A black man running the country, wtf?!?!"
So yeah I agree with Umlud. (By the way I haven't read the previous comments because the scrollbar's too tiny and I'm too lazy to read through all of them. Lol.)
PS. Just came to express a thought, not to "reply" to any of you
Kishh — May 19, 2010
By the way, this graph only analyzes two Presidents. You can't really make a generalization/theory about who fights "dirtier" just based on a sample of one from each party. I'd like to see graphs comparing previous Repub/Demo "proof" of mud-slinging.
a — May 19, 2010
Didn't a nasty smear campaign about McCain having an illegitimate, non-white child originate in the Bush camp (in 2000)? So some of the nasty rumors about Republicans come from Republicans!
Brian — May 24, 2010
I am from the reddest county in the United States, Randolph County, Arkansas. Growing up I knew nothing more than the Republican or Christian perspective, which in my experience was always about "us against them" and that's putting it politely. "Them" being anyone other than a white, heterosexual Christian. Unless you were Baptist and thought everyone else was going to hell, or Church of Christ and thought everyone else was going to hell, or Pentecostal....you get the point. Basically everyone was going to hell, but if you were a white, heterosexual Christian you were okay while you were living. Definitely going to hell, but okay. I once heard someone say "There are many ways to be a human being." I couldn't believe how such a simple statement could be so profound and such a contrast to what I had been exposed to, which was there is a right way and a wrong way to be a human being. It has been my experience that this type of thinking is very Republican. A type of thinking that is so easily manipulated by those with a "pulpit" to illicit fear of "other" simply by accentuating Obama's middle name. To flame the fires of the "us against them" with lies and misconceptions that are swallowed whole without a shred of critical thought, by otherwise rational people. And I'm taking about people with money and resources. Some of the best people you will ever meet. I would say that it's hard to understand, but I was once there. It's cultural. And although there are a great many critical thinking Republicans, I believe the majority are not.
The emails that go around and around are found to have a common thread « JoeWo Joe Wosik Blog — May 25, 2010
[...] Here is a graph looking at quantities of those horrible emails that go around and around. You can see that Snopes.com has dealt with a lot more emails based on Obama in his 2 years in office than Bush had with 8 years in office and you can see with Bush the chances of them being true was about 50/50 but with Obama the lies far outnumber of the true emails. Basically you can get one of those forwarded emails about Obama and bet it is a lie and win almost all the time. And the lies are different for each in that the truth about Obama is innocuous however the lies reflect poorly on Obama while Bush had lies told BUT THEY REFLECTED WELL UPON HIM while the truth was also positive about Bush. Basically the lies hurt Obama and helped Bush. This points to the authors of these emails supporting Republicans and wanting Republican politics in office as they tried to opposed Democrats. That is the only thing this can be and it is quite possible they come from the same source as the tactics and direction are the same. These are from the GOP aimed at Democrats in order to mis-inform everyone. How clearer can this be? To add perspective in a past election the same types of emails went out about Kerry than McCain. This is an organized disinformation campaign benefiting Republicans by Republicans. Story and graph are located here [...]
Caesar — May 25, 2010
This may be a shot in the dark, but maybe..just maybe..Obama is getting the amount of criticism due to the fact he has failed as a president year to date. The econonmy has not improved, unemployment is at an all time high, the Mexican President is degrading a U.S. State in our House, N. Korea has little to no fear of the U.S. and we have a massive oil spill with no help from the Administration to clean it.
Its not a Black or White thing, its Obama would only be a good President at a time of peace and surplus, not during these rough times.
Its safe to say Mitt Romney and the Republican Party will be running the show in 2012 followed by the landslide of Republican victories coming this November.
tim0715 — May 25, 2010
What about the growth of the internet and snopes in 10 years? It's been huge. In fact, if you estimate using Moore's law, the gorowth of the internet is over 10x. So by comparison, the number of rumors on the internet should have grown over 10x. But it didn't. It only grew 2x. Sounds like the Republicans are a let LESS likely to spread nonsense than dems.
Phil — May 25, 2010
Conservatives are more naturally inclined to embrace information that's presented to them by a sympathetic source without question or verification. That's not to say that may who embrace liberal positions don't have the same flaw, but a key of true liberalism is challenging dogma and assumptions, while a key of conservatism is accepting dogma and assumptions. This mirrors the general failure of liberal talk radio to grab a large market share - liberals are just less likely to tune into the same show each day in order to have their biases validated, while this is a comfort to conservatives.
originator — May 25, 2010
To be completely honest here we have to admit that race probably plays a huge factor here. I agree that imperically it does appear the republicans are willing to play dirtier but I truly believe racial bias is the over riding factor in these numbers. There's simply a large segment of people in this country that are unwilling to accept a black man as President and are therefore much more willing to make up and/or believe nearly anything him.
John From Berkeley » links for 2010-05-25 — May 25, 2010
[...] Rumors and Partisan Politics » Sociological Images (tags: politics republican obama bush) [...]
Snopes has had a busy year - US Message Board - Political Discussion Forum — May 25, 2010
[...] has had a busy year Rumors and Partisan Politics Sociological Images Quote: J.L. Bell at Oz and Ends counted the number of rumors about President G.W. Bush and [...]
wheelman42 — May 25, 2010
What a lot of you are identifying- the propensity to accept information that reinforces previously held beliefs despite overwhelming evidence that it is not true- is called authoritarianism. It has also been refered to at certain times as 'closed minded.' Open minded (or non-authoritarian) individuals are more likely to question information, and when presented with evidence that contradicts their beliefs, change their opinions to fit the facts. Authoritarianism is not an absolute, it exists in a continuum. We are all authoritarian to greater or lesser degrees. It also knows no political affiliation; extreme authoritarians can be either conservative or liberal. However, authoritarians are by their very nature drawn to heirarchical power structures- the architecture comforts them. The military, the Church, the GOP, corporations. They look for authority to tell them what to do, and when they prove to be good and loyal followers, they get promoted. The problem is that they lack flexibility: once the authority has told them 'the way that it is," no ammount of contrary evidence can persuade them to change their mind. This often leads to disasterous results. For example- there was a general in WWI who knew that "a machine gun is no match for a man on a horse." He sent thousands of mounted soldiers to get mowed down. When informed that, in fact, machine guns kill men and horses very effectively, he refused to admit he was wrong. Instead, for the next attack he sent twice as many men and horses to their deaths. Even after he ran out of men, he refused to accept that men and horses were vulnerable to bullets. Similarly, the tank and the airplane were laughed at and derided, even AFTER proving their effectiveness.
Bush and Cheney were notorious authoritarians- rewarding loyalty and obedience over competence, ignoring contrary yet factual information while chosing to believe false information because it reinforced their previously held beliefs.
A few more notes: authoritarians are fear driven people. The decision to use torture as a tactic is not to extract useful information. It has been well known and documented for many years that torture does NOT produce useful intelligence. The use of torture is to instill FEAR in the enemy. That is the ONLY thing torture is good for.
Also- one of the first organizations to identify authoritarianism, devise tests to screen for it, and select for membership those with the highest rankings were the Nazis. People with extremely authoritarian profiles could be expected to believe anything they were told and to follow orders without question, hence, good Nazis.
You can draw your own conclusions and parallels to the cult-like birther movement, people who 'beleive' the 'fair-and-balanced,' the myth of the left-wing media conspiracy (media being controlled by corporations run by conservatives, albiet, some who still feel obligated to report truths), the 'gut feeling' that drove us to invade an innocent country to prove the existence of something that didn't exists, tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation create a healthy economy, etc.
In conclusion- it's perfectly reasonable to believe that authoritarians who want to hang onto authority would use the obedience and unquestioning loyalty of it's uninformed followers to spread blatant lies that slander opponents and fluff allies. Non-authoritarians would be less likely to do so, looking for practical fact-based solutions to real problems instead.
Jason — May 27, 2010
Bush was a polarizing President. Obama is a more polarizing President. Masses are resistant to change and Obama has brought a lot of change, for better or worse. And President Obama brings a lot of this stuff on himself ("my Muslim faith"; fully agree that it was a slip of the tongue, but certainly didn't put out the fires for the kooks out there). We also forget that the birther nonsense started in a very hotly contested primary with Hillary Clinton, one in which Bill Clinton is quoted as saying some pretty racist things about Obama.
Let's run a side by side tally on the number of positive vs. negative media stories on the two Presidents and I think you will find an inverse relationship. Doesn't make it right, but also doesn't mean there is a vast right wing conspiracy to denegrate Democrats.
Blue Inkster — May 30, 2010
Hmmmm... Without seeing a complete list of all rumors investigated, this "research" is meaningless. Besides, who made snopes the arbiter of rumors? When it comes to urban myths and bets at a bar, I'm willing to let snopes be the final word. On important fact checking? Not so much.
Besides, unless the "researcher" can prove that snopes investigated all rumors for all parties involved, the results are, again, meaningless.
Stumbo — May 31, 2010
Yeah, it's almost as if most of the people commenting here "are more naturally inclined to embrace information that’s presented to them by a sympathetic source without question or verification..."
Nah, couldn't be.
fatfox — May 31, 2010
Blue Inkster: How bizarre! The lists of rumours are very easy to find. It's not as if Snopes keeps them hidden. Following a link from this very page, I found them in less than a minute. So what you're really saying is "As long as I choose not to look at the lists of rumours investigated, the research is meaningless". To be fair, I use much the same ostrich technique to avoid thinking about how smoking is ruining my lungs – but I've never asserted that, by refusing to read it, I have somehow magically rendered cancer data 'meaningless'.
If you want to assert that minimal research was required to draw up that graph, that the further analysis is tendentious, and that it's not at all clear that much can be concluded from the whole exercise, fair enough. I'd tend to agree. But your implication that the source material is unavailable to you simply doesn't hold water. It's here:
Thomas — June 1, 2010
Posing questions like this on the internet do nothing but spark more fingerpointing and ill feelings about your fellow Americans. Politicians should seek out ways to empower Americans to be their very best. They should not fall to lobbyists' money or give everything way. Greed, entitlement and corruption have completely clouded our political arena and voter judgment. Term limits, pension reform and campaign reform (dollar limits on what can be spent on a campaign as well as contributions) will begin to right the cart. Vote them out if they don't agree. Are they there to get the job done or to figure out ways to get reelected. There are very few on either side of the aisle that aren't looking out for number 1.
The Most Important Election Since Two Years Ago « Tethered Swimming — July 11, 2010
[...] to be very much worse this time around. Consider that in just fifteen months, Obama endured twice as many rumors, and three times as many false ones, as Bush the Younger did in his entire eight year reign. The [...]
Evan Harper — July 28, 2010
The methodology is somewhat flawed, as there is no way to control for possible editorial biases on the part of Snopes. (By which I don't mean specifically political biases, but just anything -- perhaps they report more rumors overall these days, or perhaps after the Birther thing blew up, they started scrutinizing Presidential rumors more often.) Nonetheless, the sheer weight of numbers is pretty suggestive -- could bias really account for a variance of 9x in rumour intensity?