It’s been a rough first few days for White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. At Tuesday’s White House Press Briefing, Spicer answered questions regarding President Donald Trump‘s continued remarks about alleged voter fraud. Even though Trump won the election and is currently in the first week of his administration, he continues to insist that at least three million illegal votes were cast in November.
Spicer tried to meet the challenge of reporters who questioned Trump’s allegation, by saying this belief is nothing new, as Trump has been saying it for some time. He also tried to support his boss by giving statistics that back up Trump’s claim that voter fraud is a significant problem. Spicer said there was a Pew study from 2008 that showed that 14% of people who had voted were non-citizens.
Now, according to CBS News, more than 131 million people voted in the 2008 election. That would mean that more than 18 million non-citizens would have had to vote, according to Spicer’s stat. Lest you be concerned that voter fraud is an even bigger scourge on our democracy than Trump realizes, please be assured that Spicer was likely mixing up his bogus information.
See, during the campaign, Trump had cited a study from the Washington Post “Monkey Cage” blog that said more than 14 percent of non-citizens were registered to vote. This is very different from 14 percent of voters being non-citizens and is where Trump likely got the idea that 3 million illegal votes were cast. However, that study was heavily criticized, as the sample size may not have been an accurate representation of the overall population. The Post later acknowledged that some of the critiques were even included in a revised version of the study, and the blog post that discussed it now has an editor’s note mentioned the controversy surrounding the study.
Trump also cited a Pew study that indicated that 2.75 million people were registered to vote in multiple states due to records not being updated after moving, but that study did not say that this resulted in voter fraud. In fact, one of the study’s authors tweeted about how it doesn’t prove voter fraud.
We found millions of out of date registration records due to people moving or dying, but found no evidence that voter fraud resulted.
— David Becker (@beckerdavidj) November 28, 2016
So it looks like Spicer probably confused these two studies that have already been shown not to prove fraud, then mixed up one of the debunked stats. Not a good start for the new administration.