A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Our Disinformed Electorate

We saw more aggressive fact-checking by journalists in this election than ever before. Unfortunately, as a post-election Annenberg Public Policy Center poll confirms, millions of voters were bamboozled anyway.

More than half of U.S. adults (52 percent) said the claim that Sen. Barack Obama’s tax plan would raise taxes on most small businesses is truthful, when in fact only a small percentage would see any increase.

More than two in five (42.3 percent) found truth in the claim that Sen.

More Social Security Bunk

Democrats celebrated Halloween early this year, trying to spook voters with the political boogeyman of risking Social Security in the stock market. Since October 1, we have found 58 ads from Democrats and their allies attacking their Republican House and Senate opponents on the issue. They mislead in several ways:

They say benefits would have been "risked in the stock market." While that’s true for younger workers, current beneficiaries wouldn’t have been eligible for private accounts under the plan President Bush supported.

Social Security and Spanish Ads

We posted two new pieces on the main site today. The first looks at a common theme among Democratic congressional ads: the accusation that Republicans want to gamble away Social Security in risky private investments. We count 58 ads with such charges that have aired since Oct. 1. Read all about how they’re trying to mislead voters in our full story:
More Social Security Bunk

Our second article examines four Spanish-language ads from the presidential campaigns,

Scaring, and Misleading, Seniors Again

In what is becoming a bit of a pattern, a group that backs Sen. Barack Obama is trying to convince senior citizens that Sen. John McCain would be their worst nightmare. The AFL-CIO is distributing a mailer that claims McCain is “turning his back on retirees,” by “privatizing Social Security, taxing health care benefits” and “cutting $1 trillion from Medicare.”
Talking Points Memo reports that the AFL-CIO is sending this flyer to retirees in Indiana, North Carolina and more traditional swing states.

More Social Security Spin

An Obama-Biden TV ad once again twists McCain’s position on Social Security.

It claims he backed a "plan to risk your Social Security in the stock market." In fact, the plan McCain endorsed in 2005 would have been voluntary, and workers could have put only one-third of their Social Security pension fund taxes into private accounts.

The new ad also asks viewers to imagine "your future retirement benefits" invested in Lehman Brothers, AIG or Merrill Lynch,

The Whoppers of 2008

Normally we post a “Whoppers” compilation the week before Election Day. This time we’ve already seen such a large number of twisted facts, misleading claims and outright falsehoods that we are doing that now.
It’s not just Sarah Palin’s claim about killing the bridge project that she had supported until it became a national laughingstock and Congress turned against it. That’s just the whopper that got the attention of many news organizations earlier this month.

Obama’s Social Security Whopper

In Daytona Beach, Obama said that "if my opponent had his way, the millions of Floridians who rely on it would’ve had their Social Security tied up in the stock market this week." He referred to "elderly women" at risk of poverty, and said families would be scrambling to support "grandmothers and grandfathers."
That’s not true. The plan proposed by President Bush and supported by McCain in 2005 would not have allowed anyone born before 1950 to invest any part of their Social Security taxes in private accounts.

Scaring Seniors

A new Obama ad characterizes the "Bush-McCain privatization plan" as "cutting Social Security Benefits in half." This is a falsehood sure to frighten seniors who rely on their Social Security checks. In truth, McCain does not propose to cut those checks at all.
The ad refers to a Bush proposal from 2005 to hold down the growth of benefits for future retirees. Compared to the buying power of benefits paid to today’s retirees,

You’ve Got Mailers!

A direct-mail piece sent to voters by the Clinton campaign twists Obama’s words and gives a false picture of his proposals: It says he “wants to raise Social Security taxes by a trillion dollars,” a big distortion. Obama has said a “good option” would be to apply Social Security payroll taxes to incomes over $97,500 a year, but that would only affect taxes paid by 6.5 percent of individuals and couples. And he hasn’t formally proposed such a move anyway.

More Mitt Malarkey

Romney repeats misleading claims about McCain’s stand on immigration and his own record on taxes.