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Is Politico Reliable?

By · Sep 1, 2023 · 8 min read

Is Politico Reliable?

Media consumers live in an age where they are constantly bombarded with information at all hours of the day. Today, they are tasked with sorting through the noise to pinpoint the most accurate and reliable media sources. Since its founding, Politico has worked to stand out from other organizations with its reputation for trusted, in-depth political reporting and analysis. It covers a wide range of political topics, including national and international politics, policy issues, and election coverage. Politico has a team of experienced journalists and reporters who strive to provide accurate and balanced information to their readers. However, its audience tends to be trusted the most by liberals and mixed political affiliations and more distrusted than trusted by conservatives, as shown by Pew Research.

Trust Levels of News Sources by Ideological Group
Source: Pew Research

It’s important to note that no media outlet is completely free from occasional mistakes surrounding accuracy and reliability, but the most reliable organizations are the ones that consistently use credible sources and factual information the most often. This article will strive to objectively evaluate Politico’s reliability, considering its use of sources and facts that contribute to its overall trustworthiness as an organization. We hope that shedding light on these factors will empower readers as they make judgments about Politico as a source in the digital age.

Does Reliability Matter?

Reliability, in general, refers to how trustworthy or accurate information, or in this case, a news source is. If we consider 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, after all. So how exactly can we gauge the reliability of a news source anyways?

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 Politico Fare in its Reliability?

Biasly’s political bias index provides an objective evaluation of news organizations’ reliability. According to our meter, Politico has a high rating of 89% reliability, indicating that readers can generally trust their online content. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind that some articles may be more or less trustworthy than others, as this rating is an average. These findings are consistent with those of other third-party evaluators, showing a good fact-checking record.

To ensure you’re getting trustworthy news, let’s examine the supporting data for these rankings and identify red flags to look out for when searching for reputable news sources.

Politico Accuracy and Reliability

News organizations’ credibility can be affected by bias and political orientation. Politico, like many other media outlets, has received criticism for allegedly prioritizing the liberal agenda over facts. To assess the integrity of Politico’s news stories and determine if this is true, we will evaluate how well the publication supports its assertions with evidence. Additionally, we will also look for selection and omission bias as we assess the accuracy and factual basis of their articles.

Selection bias is when stories and facts are selected or deselected, often on ideological grounds, to create a narrative in support of the new 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 important to keep in mind these two types of biases when trying to assess an article’s level of accuracy.

At Biasly, we use a percentage score to measure accuracy. A score of 100 is the most accurate while a score of 1 is the least accurate. We calculate ratings based on the number of reliable internal and external sources used, as well as the amount of supporting evidence provided. You can find dependability and accuracy ratings for newly released Politico news stories on our website.

We previously mentioned that Politico is 89% reliable on average but that this score varies between articles with fluctuations being caused by bias — namely omission and selection bias. Comparably, The Hill, a top competitor of Politico, has a Center bias at -10% and is 52% reliable according to Biasly. One of their most recently rated articles scored a 92% reliability rating, titled “US women’s national soccer team players appeal equal pay decision,” while another article called “Capitol riot defendants have started a jail newsletter: report” was only 79% reliable. As we can see, headlines that show a clear political leaning tend to be less reliable than neutral ones.

Take this recently rated article called “Biden ends Trump ban on pandemic aid for undocumented college students.” Biasly assigned this article a 56% reliability rating. It provides information on a policy change made by the Biden administration regarding federal relief grants for college students, and it cites Education Secretary Miguel Cardona as the source of the information. The article also references the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package signed by President Biden in March 2021 and provides details about the distribution of funds to colleges and universities. Additionally, the article mentions previous restrictions imposed by the Trump administration and court rulings against those restrictions. But perhaps one of the primary reasons for its lower reliability rating is that the article only links to two sources, both of which are Politico’s own articles, without the inclusion of any counter-balancing conservative sources. And in terms of selection and omission, the information focuses on Biden’s reversal of Trump’s policy without providing any conservative viewpoint.

Below, we will examine additional instances similar to this one to further evaluate the dependability of Politico articles. This will involve analyzing its utilization of selection bias, omission bias, and the credibility of its sources and facts utilized.

Analysis of Reliability in Politico Online Articles

Let’s examine another article from 2021: “Rare Schumer, McConnell showdown previews floor fight on Dems’ election bill.” Just to summarize, we previously stated that articles can be considered unreliable if they contain information from untrustworthy sources, unsupported statements, and a lack of original sources. The authors of this article do a fairly good job of avoiding this throughout the article with a few exceptions, directly using Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell as primary sources — the article’s subject matter at hand — with direct quotes, presenting contrasting views on the election bill. This shows an attempt to balance the representation of both parties’ perspectives. They also cite Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and more representatives to provide a balance of both parties, giving the article a sense of neutrality. There is, however, no attempt to link to authoritative sources; Politico exclusively links six times to its own reference material, which weakens the authority of the article as a whole.

In terms of the facts, the article is mostly neutral. For the majority of the piece, it overviews what the “For the People Act of 2021” was and what it was intended to do, how various politicians reacted to it, and what kinds of negotiations occurred as it passed through Congress:

“Manchin remains the only Senate Democrat to not publicly sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill. But even if he does eventually get on board, the elections measure is still short of the 10 GOP votes necessary to overcome a filibuster. Privately, Senate Democrats and senior aides have agonized over the bill, with no clear path for it to become law.”

This reporting-style language is factual and trustworthy and is what you would typically see in reliable news. The problem, however, is that this article fails to account for the facts behind the Republican perspective, as it states that, “Republicans, however, have vociferously opposed the bill, and argue it amounts to a ‘federal takeover’ of the U.S. election system.” Throughout the piece, it repeatedly refers to the Republicans’ view of the bill as a “federal takeover” in quotations without giving enough explanation as to why. It does say:

“If enacted into law, the legislation would amount to a sweeping overhaul of federal elections across the country. It would mandate in-person early voting in all states, require that states offer no-excuse absentee voting and institute automatic and same-day voter registration across the country, among other provisions. In addition, it would require most states to create independent redistricting commissions for future cycles.”

However, these seem to be presented as reasons for the left’s support of the bill rather than to give validity to the right’s concerns. The right-wing perspective on the bill is underrepresented in this article, which is primarily concerned with seizing the authority of states to regulate the voting process as well as a number of First Amendment violations, voter fraud, the quality and accuracy of vote registration lists, voter intimidation, and the independence of the judiciary — none of which are mentioned in the article.

In sum, the quality of the sources used in the article was good, drawing from primary sources like the politicians and the legislation in question. The facts used to support this article, however, were a little more shaky. There seemed to be some selection and omission at work in the way the authors failed to fully account for both political perspectives of the 2021 election bill equally, which reduced the reliability of the article overall.

Analysis of Reliability in Politico Opinion Pieces

In addition to its analysis, Politico also has a page dedicated to opinion pieces. These are articles that provide a writer’s unique perspective on a particular issue, typically someone who isn’t a regular staff writer but is invited to contribute their viewpoint. Op-eds are meant to be subjective. They are less reliable than traditional journalism, but because they are written from someone’s personal lens, there is always something to learn from them — so they can still be worth reading.

It is for these reasons, however, that Politico’s opinion section can have reliability problems from time to time with its facts and its sources. A good example comes from a 2023 article called “The Republican Pearl Clutchers Are Wrong.” The premise of the article is that Governor DeSantis, who recently launched a bid for president in 2024, is too concerned with fighting the culture war and not concerned enough with real issues, especially because, as the author states, the culture war alienates “independents, young voters, and suburban moms.”

The biggest problem with this article is the quality of the facts used. It is based on a flawed premise, beginning the article by saying that DeSantis only cares about the culture war and that:

“​​the traditional Republican Party is being distorted and knocked off its moorings by culture war obsessions.”

However, the author provides no evidence for this particular claim, citing no sources — internal or external — other than that he said so. There are no links to outside sources showing evidence, only to other op-eds that endorse other candidates who aren’t engaging in the culture war. The author engages in selection and omission by ignoring that Governor DeSantis has repeatedly expressed concern and taken strong stances on issues like illegal immigration, ESG, energy, education, budgetary balance, medical freedom, and many other issues that he would continue to prioritize if he became president. It’s also clear that the author has a vendetta against DeSantis from his use of “Don’t Say Gay” as a misleading nickname for the legislation DeSantis established to protect young grade school students from sexually explicit material at school.

We touched on the sourcing of this article already, but it’s worth mentioning that, of all nine external articles linked, seven of them were left-leaning media organizations, and one of the two more right-leaning outlets the author linked to had published a left-leaning article. So although it appears as though balance was attempted, there was a high preference for liberal sources.

So Is Politico Reliable?

Politico is generally considered a somewhat reliable news source, although there have been occasional exceptions, as we’ve seen in the examples above. As such, it’s important to be aware of media reliability and accuracy, so you can spot any issues with sources, selection, omission, and factuality and be an informed media consumer. To help with this, you can use Biasly’s News Bias Checker to identify any reliability problems and help you find the most accurate and reliable news.


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