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Politics and poverty dominated the Truth-O-Meter this weekend as PolitiFact New Jersey examined claims about a former president’s approval ratings prior to an election and a state senator’s statement about the poor.
In case you missed it, the Truth-O-Meter handed down a Mostly False ruling on Sunday to Assemblyman John Wisniewski, for his claim about approval ratings for President George H. W. Bush. On Monday, state Sen. Barbara Buono received a Mostly True ruling for her claim about the nation’s poverty level.
The assemblyman, also the state’s Democratic Party chairman, cited a high approval rating for Bush in comparing the Republican president’s popularity with recent high approval ratings for Gov. Chris Christie, who has announced plans to seek re-election. In making the comparison, Wisniewski noted that Christie could lose re-election, despite his rising poll numbers.
Wisniewski claimed that Bush probably had a 90 percent or higher approval rating in January 1992, after the first Gulf War, but was ultimately defeated by Democrat Bill Clinton that November.
The Truth-O-Meter reviewed a number of national polls from the time period specified by Wisniewski and determined that Bush’s approval rating was around 90 percent in March 1991 – nearly a year earlier than Wisniewski claimed -- but had fallen below 50 percent by January 1992. Wisniewski’s spokeswoman admitted that the assemblyman had a date wrong when he made his claim in a Nov. 27 interview on NJToday.
During a Senate debate Thursday on raising the minimum wage, Buono (D-Middlesex) said the number of Americans living at or below the poverty level was at its highest level since 1964, when President Johnson in his State of the Union address launched what he called a war on poverty.
Buono was off the mark slightly, PolitiFact New Jersey determined. The last official poverty rate – 15 percent in 2011 – is one of the highest levels since 1964, but it’s not the highest. The official poverty rates were higher in 1993, at 15.1 percent; 15.2 percent in 1983; and 17.3 percent in 1965. The nation also had a 15 percent poverty rate in 1982.
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