How to spot FAKE NEWS!

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”1

This article, “Poll: Few voters report seeing bigger paychecks after tax changes” is FAKE NEWS! Let me explain why.

The first sentence of the article is very misleading: “Most voters aren’t noticing more money in their paychecks under the new tax law, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.”

If you dig into the data a bit, you will begin to understand why: only 47% of the poll’s respondents qualified as “employed.”

The second sentence, “Just a quarter of registered voters, 25 percent, say they have noticed an increase in their paycheck, the poll shows. A majority, 51 percent, say they have not,” is misleading for the same reason, over half of them are not employed.

The third sentence, “Among employed voters — those working in the private and public sectors, plus those who are self-employed — a larger percentage, 37 percent, have noticed an uptick on their pay stubs,” leaves out a piece of critical information: many people had not yet received a paycheck where the change to tax withholding would have been applied. The IRS issued new withholding tables on February 1. This poll was conducted from February 15th through February 19th.

  • For those paid on a monthly basis, the first paycheck where they will have a difference won’t be delivered until they receive their pay for February, probably in March.
  • For those paid on a bi-weekly or semi-monthly basis, it is likely they responded to the survey before they received their pay on the 15th or 16th.
  • For those that get paid weekly, at best they received one pay check that would have included the new withholding amounts.

All data, but especially polling data has to be analyzed in context. The context for this poll is that quite a few respondents should not have been allowed to answer these questions (or the data should not have been reported) because they could not have been affected by the new withholding rates.

This is FAKE NEWS, not because the data is fake, but because the data is irrelevant.