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How Reliable is Real Clear Politics?

By · Jan 12, 2024 · 11 min read

How Reliable is Real Clear Politics?

Real Clear Politics was founded in 2000 to “cover the news fairly and honestly.” They receive ~14 million monthly visits and cover domestic U.S. politics, foreign affairs, and polling. The Real Clear Politics website features in-house and aggregated articles from other publications.

Real Clear Politics polling average is an industry benchmark cited by cable networks and national publications. They took a rightward turn after the 2016 election of Donald Trump, becoming more partisanly conservative than before.

Does Reliability Matter?

Reliability, in general, refers to how trustworthy or accurate information, or in this case, a news source is. Considering this definition, it quickly becomes clear why reliability is important in media sources. If we can’t trust the things we read then there isn’t much of a point in continuing to consume content from that source. So how exactly can we gauge the reliability of a news source?

There are several potential measures of reliability to look out for when trying to determine whether a media source is reliable or not. Red flags for an unreliable article can include the presence of wild unsubstantiated claims, facts dependent on other unreliable sources, heavy use of opinionated language, and more. Some indicators of a reliable news source, on the other hand, include things like:

  • Absence of subjective/opinionated language in articles
  • Credible sources cited (e.g., neutral sources, .gov, .edu websites)
  • Facts and statistics backed by multiple relevant outside sources
  • Use of primary sources when possible (e.g., interviews, quotes)
  • Information that remains consistent across news sources

So How Does Real Clear Politics Fare in its Reliability?

The political bias index developed by Biasly aims to assess news organizations’ dependability objectively. Biasly’s reliability rating for Real Clear Politics has an Analyst rating of 57% reliability on our meter, which suggests that readers can trust some of Real Clear Politics content online. However, since this is an average, specific articles could be more or less trustworthy. Our findings are not in line with those of other third-party raters who show that Real Clear Politics is highly reliable.

Let us analyze the supporting data for these rankings and discuss what to watch out for while searching for trustworthy news sources.

Real Clear Politics Accuracy and Reliability

The credibility of news organizations is impacted significantly by bias and political orientation. Like numerous other media organizations, Real Clear Politics has occasionally received accusations of prioritizing the conservative agenda over facts. We can evaluate the integrity of Real Clear Politics news stories and deduce how well the publication supports assertions with evidence. We will check for selection and omission bias as we assess the articles’ correctness and factuality.

Selection bias is when stories and facts are selected or deselected, often on ideological grounds, to create a narrative supporting the news sources’ ideology. Omission bias, on the other hand, is when different opinions and political views regarding a situation are left out so that the reader is only exposed to the ideological perspective supported by the author. It’s essential to keep in mind these two types of biases when trying to assess an article’s level of accuracy.

Biasly assigns a percentage score to accuracy, with one being the least accurate and 100 being the most. We determine our ratings by weighing assertions with supporting evidence, the number of reliable internal sources, and the number of reliable external sources employed. A full page at Biasly’s website includes dependability and accuracy ratings for newly released Real Clear Politics news stories. As we previously stated, according to Biasly’s analysts, Real Clear Politics is generally 57% reliable.

However, the reliability score can vary from article to article, and the most extreme variations in dependability originate from bias – notably omission and selection bias. Consider ABC News, which has a somewhat liberal bias and is 78% reliable, according to Biasly. For example, they had one article that was 85% reliable titled, “House passes anti-Asian hate crimes bill, legislation awaits Biden’s signature,” and another article called, “Biden calls new GOP-passed Georgia law restricting voting access an ‘atrocity’” that is only 42% reliable. With this in mind, readers must carefully evaluate each source for reliability since it is not uniform from article to article.

For instance, this Real Clear Politics article titled “RCP Takeaway; Weaponized Filibuster? Omicron Onslaught” is rated Somewhat Conservative, so it has a slight conservative bias. Concerning the selection and omission bias, the author does a poor job of attaining primary source quotes for this ‘morning briefing’ article and instead relies on his synopsis of information. The author does link to outside sources several times throughout the article; however, the selection bias and reliability of the linked articles are impressively poor. To demonstrate:

“Are adults who’ve received their booster shots at far less risk of hospitalization or death? Everyone from medical policy experts to frontline healthcare workers insist that this is so, and the early data apparently backs it up. All I can say is that we should all pray that this is true and that this trend holds.”

The author links to Alex Brenson to validate his vaccine skepticism; however, Alex Brenson spreads questionable information while discrediting medical experts, see here. Furthermore, the author also links to a bitterly partisan Fox News article titled “AOC tests positive for COVID-19 after partying in Miami maskless.” If the author had selected fewer partisan sources to validate his vaccine skepticism or provided a balanced liberal source, the article would have been less biased and more reliable. Therefore, this article is not as reliable as it could be.

We will take a closer look at more examples like this below, providing a further investigation into the reliability of Real Clear Politics articles. This analysis will delve into its use of selection bias, omission bias, and the quality of sources and facts used.

Analysis of Reliability in Real Clear Politics Opinion Pieces

Opinion-style journalism is a suitable venue for reporters to express their opinions and beliefs, even if excessive opinion might be something to avoid while producing a general news article. Although opinion pieces are less trustworthy because they are subjective, they can still be worthwhile to read to increase one’s understanding of various political viewpoints.

Real Clear Politics opinion articles have caused issues in the past with their reliability because they tended to promote conservative ideologies and individuals. For example, Real Clear Politics was embroiled in controversy after the 2020 election because of their resistance to admitting Trump’s electoral defeat. The article “New Peer-Reviewed Research Finds Evidence of 2020 Voter Fraud” is advertised as ‘commentary’ but looks more like an opinion piece with an intense conservative bias. Real Clear Politics’ commitment to pro-Trump coverage superseded their desire to accurately and objectively report the news, likely in an attempt to appeal to their majority conservative viewership.

Quality of Sources and Facts Used

Real Clear Politics can be good at using reliable sources from both sides of the ideological divide and citing facts as evidence; however, the quality of journalism varies from article to article. Consider, “Dems in Tough Elections Ignore Pelosi’s Push to Tout BBB.” In this article by Susan Crabtree, there are only six quotes. Of the six quotes, two are short, three are medium-length, and one is long.

In addition, the author’s four sources for the article are:

  • Leaked phone call between Representative Pelosi and Democratic donors
  • CNBC/Change Research Survey
  • Quote from former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki
  • Selected tweets from Democratic politicians

The quality of sources used is average. The leaked phone call and survey are high-quality sources; however, the tweets from Democratic representatives (some of which are almost a decade old) and out-of-context quotes from the press secretary are not as reliable. Furthermore, most of the quotes used are not statistical facts but opinions from Democratic politicians that allow the author to further her argument. The article does address Democrat’s strategy to sell the Build Back Better bill to the American people, but with the underlying assumption that the legislation is flawed. The article’s opening sentence demonstrates the author’s combative tone:

“As congressional Democrats struggle to breathe new life into their stalled legislative agenda…”.

The article does use some quality sources; however, the author shows a conservative bias from the first sentence to the last. Therefore, the article has average-quality sources with a lack of evidence-driven reporting.

The author, Susan Crabtree, could have increased the quality of her article by using more unique sources and grappling with the effects of the proposed (now passed) Build Back Better Bill. However, despite its conservative undertones, most of the article’s sources derive from CNBC, which Biasly considers a somewhat liberal source. The only conservative reference the author cites is from the Daily Mail. The latter discusses Nancy Pelosi’s calls for the Democratic Party to brag more about President Biden’s achievements to donors while avoiding the word “transformative” in describing Build Back Better. Specifically, in Pelosi’s words:

“So, this is transformative. But people tell me, don’t use the word ‘transformative.’ Just say it lowers costs. It lowers costs for health care — costs for families across America; it lowers cost of child care; it enables so much more to happen. So, we’re very, very proud of the legislation. Now we just have to get it passed.”

The author’s language implies that Pelosi is refraining from overselling the accomplishments of Biden due to rising inflation and economic troubles among the American people:

“The new CNBC poll, which showed Biden with a 56% disapproval rating — the worst of his presidency — also revealed deep concerns over the spike in inflation since he took office. Nearly three-fourths of those polled disapprove of his handling of “kitchen table issues,” and 89% of voters labeled the price of everyday goods as “poor” or “not so good,” the survey found. Independents, who delivered the election for Biden, gave him a “D” across the board on economic issues with most voters blaming the rising prices of goods on his policies and government spending.”

As for its other sources, the article links to, but it no longer works. Additionally, this link, from, doesn’t adopt a partisan approach in its content. Instead, it’s merely a transcript from a 2022 press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

Moreover, another Real Clear Politics article we mentioned, “New Peer-Reviewed Research Finds Evidence of 2020 Voter Fraud,” is an example of misinformation as the story relies on unfounded claims, some of which have been disproven in federal court. The author conflates public opinion with evidence of wrongdoing, stating that “By a margin of 52% to 40%, voters believe that ‘cheating affected the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.’”

Contrarily, a review by the Hoover Institution suggests that many of the statistical claims made about voter fraud in the 2020 election are either based on inaccurate facts or are not surprising, even if accurate​​. The U.S. judicial system reached the same conclusion, declaring in over 60 court cases, some of which Republican judges presided over, that the 2020 election was legitimate and that Joe Biden was the true winner of the race.

Furthermore, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Misinformation Review highlights a significant partisan divide in beliefs about the election outcome. Their study found that most Trump voters believed it was more likely that Trump won than Biden, despite a lack of evidence for voter fraud and Biden securing an electoral vote victory​​.

On top of all of this, Ken Block, a voter data expert hired by the Trump campaign to find voter fraud in the election, penned an op-ed stating unequivocally that the 2020 presidential election was not fraudulent and that there was no evidence of voter fraud sufficient to change the outcome of the election​​.

The author posits the result of his “forthcoming [research] in a peer-reviewed economics journal” before its publication, which flies in the face of the scientific method. Specifically, this research originates from a study by John Lott Jr., an economist and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center. According to his findings, there were approximately 255,000 “excess votes” for President Joe Biden in six key battleground states during the 2020 election, possibly reaching as many as 368,000 votes.

Lott’s research focused on ballot counts in states where former Trump alleged voter fraud. The study’s fundamental assertion is that these excess votes may explain Biden’s margin of victory over Trump. The states in question are Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, with Biden’s total margin being 313,253 votes. Excluding Michigan, the gap supposedly came out to 159,065 votes.

Lott used three primary methods in his study:

  1. He compared precincts in a county with alleged fraud to adjacent precincts in neighboring counties with no fraud allegations. For example, he found a significant unexplained gap in absentee ballot counts in Fulton County, Georgia, compared to 2016.
  2. He analyzed provisional ballots in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, where voters were allegedly allowed to correct defects in absentee ballots by submitting provisional ballots on Election Day. This method suggested an additional 6,700 votes for Biden in Allegheny County alone.
  3. He examined areas with unusually high turnouts, noting that Democratic-leaning counties had lower turnouts in 2020, except counties with alleged vote fraud. In these counties, there was a significant increase in turnout.

Nevertheless, Lott clarified that he did not intend his report to contest the 2020 election. Instead, he wanted to highlight issues that need attention to enhance public confidence in future elections (e.g., changes to voter identification, absentee voting, and provisional ballots).

It’s important to note that while this study raises questions and presents findings that suggest discrepancies, it does not conclusively prove widespread voter fraud. The legitimacy of the study’s methodology and conclusions can be subject to further scrutiny and debate among the academic community and election experts. As with any single study, it’s critical to consider it within the broader context of electoral research and analysis.

Selection and Omission Bias

In another example from Real Clear Politics, we can see the author’s disdain for the Build Back Better Bill (which was being considered by Congress at the time). This article, “The Progressive Logic of Build Back Better — and Its Dangers,” by Charles Lipson, focuses on what he perceives as the negative impacts of the bill and the dangers associated with progressivism. The author does not use quotes from either side of the political spectrum; instead, he conveys the progressive movement’s history since FDR and the New Deal.

The article “The Progressive Logic of Build Back Better — and Its Dangers” by Charles Lipson exhibits elements of selection and omission bias in its discussion of the Build Back Better plan and broader progressive politics. Lipson primarily focuses on the perceived risks and drawbacks of the plan, emphasizing its potential to transform the United States into a social welfare state akin to those in Europe. This perspective is underscored by a significant critique of progressive politics, tracing its history and arguing for its tendency to override traditional governing procedures. For instance, Lipson states:

“Enacting these massive, new entitlements is one reason the House bill is rightly called ‘progressive.’ The second, equally important reason is that nearly all Democrats, except Manchin and his Arizona colleague Kyrsten Sinema, are willing to break the Senate’s longstanding rules and procedures to achieve their desired outcome.”

This quote exemplifies the selection bias in the article, highlighting certain aspects of the legislation and the Democratic Party’s approach, potentially at the expense of discussing its benefits or the reasons behind its support. Furthermore, the article presents a limited range of perspectives, mainly critiquing the progressive movement and its methods.

More broadly, there must be better counter-arguments or defenses of the Build Back Better plan or progressive politics. This omission creates an unbalanced view, leaning towards a critique of the progressive agenda. Historical examples and discussions on constitutional interpretations further support this viewpoint, possibly omitting other perspectives or interpretations that might offer a different understanding. Thus, while providing a detailed analysis of the progressive elements of the Build Back Better plan, the article does so with a noticeable selection and omission bias.

In the article we discussed earlier, “Dems in Tough Elections Ignore Pelosi’s Push to Tout BBB,” the author selects quotes from Democratic leaders that she can use as fodder to disagree with and further her argument against the Build Back Better bill. The selection of quotes does not imply a liberal bias – it simply gives the author something to disagree with. On the other hand, the author omits any information/opinion(s) that would indicate a positive effect of the Build Back Better Bill. The use of the CNBC Change Research survey is a reputable source backed by the scientific process.

Nevertheless, the author selectively emphasizes aspects of the bill and related political maneuvers that align with a critical or opposing viewpoint. This approach is evident in the choice of quotes and data. For instance, the article highlights House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s strategy on the bill, as illustrated by this quote:

“As congressional Democrats struggle to breathe new life into their stalled legislative agenda, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this week told “VIP” donors on a leaked private phone call that all party members need to brag about the House-passed version of the Build Back Better bill even as she cautioned her colleagues not to describe the multitrillion-dollar spending measure’s impact as too sweeping.”

This focus on Pelosi’s cautious promotion strategy, combined with the selective presentation of poll data emphasizing public concerns about the economy and inflation, paints a picture of internal party disagreements and public skepticism.

In addition, the article spotlights the reluctance of some Democrats in competitive races to publicly endorse the bill, further supporting a narrative of uncertainty and lack of confidence in the bill’s merits. The selective use of quotes and data, particularly from reputable sources like the CNBC Change Research survey, reinforces an argument critical of the BBB bill while omitting more positive aspects or supportive opinions. The overall reliability of this article is poor because of the omission of contradictory viewpoints and the calculated selection of quotes and statistics.

In opinion pieces, issues with factuality, sources, selection, and omission are frequently present. The articles we’ve covered are biased and exclude adequate, relevant background information that may contradict the author’s position. As a news organization with a conservative slant and funding, Real Clear Politics has minimal incentive to stop appealing to its majority conservative readership. Now that we have enumerated typical trustworthiness indications, you may stay current by informing yourself on the most accurate news.

So is Real Clear Politics Reliable?

Real Clear Politics is a semi-reliable news source/aggregator with a mediocre reputation for journalistic integrity. Critically, reliability fluctuates from article to article, so it is essential to consider each article’s reliability independently of others. The more you research media reliability and accuracy, the simpler it will be for you to spot problems with sources, selection, omission, and factuality. To help with this, you can use Biasly’s News Bias Checker to uncover reliability problems and assist you in finding the most accurate.


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