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So I asked this questions: Do voters refuse to believe accurate accounts of Republican tax plans?

It was very rapidly put on hold as:

"Please focus this down to a specific claim and quote it. Claims need to be specific and explicit. The thread you cite gives two factual examples which perhaps can be used. All the rest is an opinion piece whose discussion is certainly more suited to politics.se."

Despite the fact that the the question, despite being politically controversial was not itself a political question but a factual one. Many commenters complained that the claim had been made by Democrats and was therefore suspect and political. And the context of the claim certainly is. But skeptics.SE, as far as I understand it, doesn't refuse to answer questions because they come from partizan sources (would we refuse to answer a question about homeopathy because the claim was made on a pro homeopathy website? I think not.) The claim was that voters don't believe republican policy when explained to them. That is a factually testable claim and not, itself, inherently partizan. It is possible, for example, to imagine an answer that "the democrats never explain things about republican policy in a factual way which is why voters don't believe them". That would, with evidence, be a decent answer. So I think there is nothing wrong with the claim. Possibly the moderator and many commentators failed to distinguish the context from the question. But I was clear about the question and honest about the context in a way that would be open to answers from either side.

Then the moderator requested:

Find a specific, factual claim, cite it verbatim and I'll try to see if we can reopen.

The question was edited with the explicit claims made clearer. The claims are verbatim from the source and not unclear as far as I can tell.

So I have responded to the apparent objections of the moderator, but the question has now been closed and with no further explanation. It quotes a specific claim (as the moderator requested) and it quotes the claim verbatim from the sources (as the moderator requested).

I can only assume that any questions related to politics, no matter how factual or coherent the claim, must be off topic. Did I miss that ruling? Or is there something else wrong with the question?

PS Could I request that moderators make at lest some attempt to explain why they make the judgements they do. In this case the judgements and comments by the moderator didn't seem to correspond with the state of the question at all. "claims need to be specific and explicit" seemed to me to be true before the question was put on hold. And "Find a specific factual claim, cite it verbatim..." was already true and was made much clearer in subsequent edits but the moderator action was to close the question.

  • Tangential, but the question isn't even a good fit on Politics.SE imho (for actually similar reasons to the answer below - it has several problems with it). – user5341 Feb 13 '18 at 13:59
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Straight after that last comment you cite ("Find a specific, factual claim..."), I pinged all other moderators to take over the moderation of the question. I don't want you to think that this question is being moderated unilaterally simply because I am the only person who left the comments. There are multiple eyes on it.

In any case here is an extended explanation of the closure. The specific claims you quoted are about two different cases, G.W. Bush and Romney. It's fine to ask whether the episodes claimed happened, even in the same question.

On the other hand these two claims refer to specific situations which are not meant to be representative of a larger phenomenon. The twitter chain ignores this and speculates this is a more general phenomenon. It does not state this as a fact, IMO, nor I see any evidence that people believe this in large numbers.

Your question is about this more general phenomenon and not the two claims above. Yet, you don't provide any verbatim citation of this. It's up to you to prove notability of the general claim, if you want to ask about that.

To this, add the multiple complaints of other users that point out more problems about the claim (i.e. that we are not assessing whether Republicans refuse to believe facts, but partisan interpretations thereof).

If I may add many of these claims are also about the future, i.e. whether a policy will have an effect.

Finally, the question is dangerously close to be a question about personal beliefs. It's not so that I would close it on this basis, but certainly that counts a little bit if thinking about reopening.

Given the above, I don't feel comfortable reopening at the present time.

  • I looked at it after @Sklivvz asked for more eyeballs. I couldn't see how it could be meaningfully answered. I wasn't 100% sure of the claim: "When someone gave a description of a proposed law something to someone, their first reaction was skepticism. Is this true?" Huh? – Oddthinking Dec 10 '17 at 3:23
  • I also found the claim inherently problematic for our site. It's really more of a qualitative impression the interviewers had, not something easily quantifiable. I can't really see any answer that would be better than the original articles the question is based on. – Mad Scientist Dec 10 '17 at 10:55
  • @MadScientist The thing about the claim is that is is testable outside the partizan context where it was made. The thread makes a generalised claim about voters and the question quotes specific examples of that claim. An independent opinion pollster could check the claim in a non-partizan way. Compare to claims this site is happy to deal with: a homeopath makes a claim that homeopathy works in their experience. We don't ignore it: we look for independent testable evidence about it. Same should apply here. – matt_black Dec 10 '17 at 20:27
  • @Oddthinking Imagine an opinion pollster doing a test. The test asks voters whether a particular set of descriptions of some policy is fair (or believable) or not. Or, the pollster could ask voters about specific claims made about policy by its opposition ask ask whether they believed the claims. Both are perfectly good ways to testing the claim. – matt_black Dec 10 '17 at 20:29
  • I have two problems with how you have interpreted the claim here. One is that you seem to be confusing the context of the claim with the content of the claim. Perhaps I should have left out the context (as it frequently seems to confuse people). But the claim itself is made in the twitter thread, and in some specific quotes. You claim these are are separate claims; I claim these are example of the general claim. And pollsters answer claims about people's beliefs and opinions all the time. So it is, in principle, testable. – matt_black Dec 10 '17 at 20:35
  • Oh, and there is nothing in the question I asked about the future or, indeed, whether the policies at question will work or not. The question is very specifically about whether voters believe the content of policy when it is explained to them. – matt_black Dec 10 '17 at 20:37
  • @matt_black: If you post an accurate description of Republican policies in an answer here, without references, you will find users here behaving as though they don't believe it, and demanding evidence. It's a fun game to describe a real life thing to an unsuspecting someone who hasn't heard of it, using only true statements, in such a way that they think you are making it up. (Try it with truffles.) My point is that your hypothetical survey will measure the believability of the expression of the description of the policies, which is easily manipulated by propagandists. – Oddthinking Dec 11 '17 at 0:17
  • @Oddthinking I honestly don't care about the content of the policies. But the Democrats have made a testable claim about whether the public believe the policies when they are explained to them. The could be utter bullshit (democrats might not tell the truth about what the content is) but the claim is objectively testable and could easily be true or false. I repeat: the content is a distraction; the claim itself is the point of the question. – matt_black Dec 11 '17 at 0:24
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    @matt_black: I understand that the details of the Republican policy are not the point. I'm boldly claiming that I could probably (or a suitably qualified propagandist could definitely) take any substantial policy from any side, and describe it in a way that will promote reactions of disbelief. So a survey to measure that will measure my skill as a propagandist, not the quality of the policy. – Oddthinking Dec 11 '17 at 6:09
  • @Oddthinking I'm also sure propagandists can make anything sound unbelievable. But the thread seemed to claim that the public wouldn't believe unbiased explanation of the content of tax policy. That seemed to me to be a bold claim that deserved scrutiny. – matt_black Dec 11 '17 at 11:29

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