We pushed the calendar back to 2023, but before we get too far in, we wanted to do a quick recap of five of our top fact checks from December 2022.
They covered several issues that will remain prominent this year, including access to abortion and the rising murder rate in Milwaukee:
1. Gov. Tony Evers: “An overwhelming majority of Wisconsinits support the restoration of #Roe and the legalization of marijuana.”
When Wisconsin residents cast their ballots in November, some had an opportunity to voice their opinions on two major issues — abortion policy and marijuana legalization — through advisory referendums.
Roe is, of course, referring to the landmark US Supreme Court case that guaranteed a federal right to abortion, which the court overturned on June 24.
To assess Evers’ claim, we turned to the latest results from the Marquette Law Poll. In the results released Nov. 2, the last poll before the midterm election, interviewers asked a series of questions about Roe, including what Evers was getting at: whether respondents supported or opposed a reversal.
A majority of 55% opposed a reversal, while 37% supported it. Broken down by party, more than 92% of Democrats opposed the reversal, compared to 22% of Republicans. The poll’s margin of error, which tells us how much the poll results might differ from what the general public really thinks, was 4.6 percentage points.
As for the legalization of marijuana, in the October poll — the most recent to ask about it — about two-thirds, or 64%, of respondents said it should be legalized, while 30% said the drug should remain illegal.
Previous poll results show slightly higher opposition to Roe’s reversal — 60% in August and October and 63% in September — and slightly greater support for marijuana legalization, with 69% of respondents in the August poll endorsing it.
But there’s something to consider – Evers described the support for both as “overwhelming”. That’s a subjective statement, but we think Evers exaggerated it — particularly in terms of the percentage who opposed Roe’s reversal. That’s more indicative of a wide division among those who responded.
We rated the claim as “largely true.”
2. Congregation Speaker Robin Vos: “Many of the programs launched during the pandemic are still ongoing, even though the pandemic is long over.”
Unemployment remains a top talking point among politicians even as Wisconsin is experiencing a “record low” in jobless claims.
One Goal: Expanded unemployment benefits for those who lost their jobs in the early days of COVID-19. These programs made more people eligible and added money to what claimants received from their state.
Vos, a Republican, said the programs are keeping more people out of work in Wisconsin.
When asked for support for the claim, Angela Joyce, communications director for Vos’ office, said the comments weren’t just aimed at unemployment programs. She also highlighted the FoodShare improvements and Medicaid eligibility. But by and large, the programs started by the pandemic have all ended, particularly the unemployment programs.
There are a few other programs, like the FoodShare program, that are still making additional funds available to recipients until the end of the federal health emergency, which is due to end later this month.
We have classified this claim as mostly false.
3. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jill Underly: “Wisconsin elementary school students buck national trends in ‘National Report Card’ release.”
When the latest round of math and reading scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test were released, there were many concerns about what had happened to students during the pandemic.
In short, most states and almost all demographics saw their math and reading scores decline, and—often—the gap between black and white students widened.
We found Underly’s claim to be highly misleading, since Wisconsin’s scores fell in every category as they did in most other states. That is, they followed the trend. If there was a jerk, it was that values didn’t fall as much as some other states.
From a statistical perspective, Underly and her team found that the drops in fourth graders were not rated as “statistically significant.”
We have classified this claim as largely false.
4th US Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Senior: In Milwaukee, “the[homicide]rate has nearly doubled in the last two years.”
When asked to support the claim, Grace White, Steil’s communications director, referred to reports from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, including a Nov. 23 article that detailed how the city reached a somber milestone this week, when a 33-year-old man was killed in a shooting at the 2900 block of North 46th Street that marked the seventh homicide detective report in nine days.
That shooting brought Milwaukee’s preliminary homicide total to 197 for the year.
The Journal Sentinel homicide database recorded 111 homicides in Milwaukee in 2019. In 2020 the number rose to 204. In 2021 the number rose to 212 murders. So Steep’s “almost doubled” claim was correct.
We have classified this claim as true.
5. US Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.: “Latina workers make 54 cents for every dollar white non-Hispanic men make.”
Equal Rights Advocates, a non-profit organization founded in 1974 focused on women’s rights and “gender justice,” highlights Equal Pay Days in the United States.
These days mark how far in the next year women of different ethnicities will have to work to earn as much as their white male counterparts. For Latinas, the day fell on December 8, and the wage gap was actually 54 cents on the dollar.
However, PolitiFact National, which has reviewed numerous claims about the pay gap over the years, found: “A speaker’s choice of words can significantly influence whether their position on the gender pay gap is right or wrong.”
Our national colleagues point out that, on average, women certainly earn less than men.
However, government data is not based on men and women holding the same jobs. Rather, it’s an average that widens or closes based on factors such as race, job type, and age. Research suggests that women are overrepresented in jobs that tend to be lower paid for a variety of reasons.
In Wisconsin, Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights group, said Latina women are often more vulnerable to exploitation because of their immigrant status and fear of deportation and the impact it will have on their families.
“Latina women work at the intersection of discrimination in the workplace, as women, Latinas and some as immigrants,” Neumann-Ortiz said in an email to PolitiFact Wisconsin.
She noted that Latinas are concentrated in low-wage industries like services; House work; childcare and home health care; and agriculture.
We have classified this claim as true.