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We’ve turned the calendar to 2023, but before we get too far into it, we wanted to take a quick look back at five of our top fact-checks from December 2022.
They covered several issues that will remain on the front burner this year, including access to abortion and Milwaukee’s soaring homicide rate:
1. Gov. Tony Evers: "An overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites support restoring #Roe and legalizing marijuana."
As Wisconsin residents were casting their votes in November, some got a chance to share their opinion on two big issues — abortion policy and marijuana legalization — through advisory referendums.
Roe, of course, refers to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case guaranteeing a federal right to abortion, which the court overturned June 24.
To assess the Evers claim, we turned to the most recent results from the Marquette Law Poll. In results released Nov. 2, the last poll before the midterm election, interviewers asked a number of questions about Roe, including just what Evers was getting at: whether respondents favored or opposed its reversal.
A majority, 55%, opposed its reversal; 37% favored it. Broken down by party, more than 92% of Democrats opposed the reversal, compared with 22% of Republicans. The margin of error on the survey, which tells us how much the poll results could differ from the real opinion of the entire population, was 4.6 percentage points.
As for marijuana legalization, in the October poll — the most recent that asked about it — about two-thirds, or 64%, of respondents said it should be legalized, while 30% said the drug should stay illegal.
Earlier poll results show slightly higher opposition to Roe’s reversal — 60% in August and October, and 63% in September — and slightly higher support for marijuana legalization, which 69% of respondents to the August poll favored.
But there is something to note — Evers characterized the support for both as "overwhelming." That’s a subjective statement, but in our view Evers overstated it — particularly on the percentage who opposed the reversal of Roe. That’s more indicative of a wide split among those who responded.
We rated the claim Mostly True.
2. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos: "A lot of the programs (that were) started during the pandemic are still going, even though the pandemic is long over."
Unemployment remains a top talking point among politicians, even though Wisconsin is experiencing a "record low" in unemployment claims.
One target: Expanded unemployment benefits given to those who lost their jobs during COVID-19’s early days. Those programs made more people eligible and added money to what claimants received from their state.
Vos, a Republican, targeted the programs as the reason more people in Wisconsin are not working.
When asked for backup for the claim, Angela Joyce, communications director for Vos’ office, said the comments weren’t directed only at unemployment programs. She also highlighted FoodShare enhancements and Medicaid eligibility. But, by and large, the pandemic-launched programs have all ended, especially the unemployment-related ones.
There are some other programs, such as the FoodShare program, that are still providing additional funding to recipients through the end of the federal health emergency, which is set to expire later this month.
We rated this claim 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 was plenty of concern about what had happened to students during the pandemic.
In short, most states and almost every demographic saw drops in math and reading scores, and — often — the gap between Black and white students increased.
We found Underly’s claim was highly misleading, as the scores in Wisconsin fell in each category, as they did in most other states. That is, they followed the trend. If there was any bucking, it was in that the scores did not fall as much as in some of the other states.
From a statistical perspective, Underly and her team noted that among fourth graders, the drops were not deemed "statistically significant."
We rated this claim Mostly False.
4. U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis.: In Milwaukee, "The (homicide) rate has nearly doubled in the past two years."
When asked to support the claim, Grace White, Steil’s communications director, pointed to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, including a Nov. 23 article detailing how the city reached a grim milestone that week when a 33-year-old man was killed in a shooting on the 2900 block of North 46th Street, which marked the seventh homicide police reported in a nine-day period.
That shooting brought Milwaukee’s preliminary homicide total to 197 for the year.
The Journal Sentinel’s homicide database recorded Milwaukee homicides in 2019 at 111. In 2020, the number rose to 204. In 2021, the figure climbed to 212 homicides. So Steil’s "nearly doubled" claim was on the mark.
We rated this claim True.
5. U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.: "Latina workers make 54 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men."
Equal Rights Advocates, a nonprofit organization founded in 1974 that focuses on women’s rights and "gender justice," highlights Equal Pay Days in the United States.
These days mark how far into the next year women of different ethnicities must work to earn as much as their white, male co-workers. For Latinas, the day fell on Dec. 8, and the pay gap, indeed, was 54 cents on the dollar.
However, PolitiFact National, which has reviewed numerous pay-gap claims over the years, has noted: "a speaker’s choice of words can significantly affect whether their point about the gender pay gap is right or wrong."
Our national colleagues point out that women on average certainly do make less than men.
However, the government data isn’t based on men and women doing the same jobs. Rather, it’s an average that widens or closes by factors such as race, job type and age. Research suggests women are overrepresented in jobs that tend to pay less, 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 immigration status and the fear of deportation and the impact on their families.
"Latina women work at the intersection of workplace discrimination, 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 such as service; domestic work; child care and home health care; and agriculture.
We rated this claim True.