There’s an app to check claims in political ads

Pamela Stevens , Staff Writer

With the Nov. 4 election fast approaching, we have all experienced the political ads that seem to be around every corner. We may try to avoid them by turning to Netflix and DVRs, satellite and Internet radio, but ad campaigns are savvy and change as our technology changes.

We still find fliers in our mailboxes, but we also find them increasingly on social media sites, as politicians do whatever they can to get their message to voters. Regardless of how politicians and interest groups are reaching out, it’s helpful to know how to verify their claims for ourselves so we can be as informed as possible entering the voting booth.

Advances in modern technology and communication have put voters in an ideal position to become well-informed on the candidates and the issues important to them. Though there are several helpful tools, it’s always good to start with a critical eye. Taking note of who paid for an ad can reveal how the ad is biased.

Endorsements are often unclear and may require further investigation. Sites like and apps like “Ad Hawk” can help voters find out who is really behind these ads.

It’s also important to pay attention to the wording of political ads. For example, claims of job growth may use small timeframes – sometimes less than a year – while long-term changes are usually far more telling.

Ads may refer to broad geographical regions, like The Midwest, despite certain parts of that region being excluded from the final data. This is when additional fact-checking is needed, and when the internet becomes an valuable tool for weeding through all the numbers and confusing wording in ads.

Several websites are available for helping voters become more informed. is sponsored in part by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and uses their “Truth-O-Meter” to rank a political ad’s claims. also gives a thorough breakdown of how their conclusions were reached. is nonpartisan and nonprofit, calling itself a “consumer advocate” for voters. It provides readers with the whole story behind ad claims, including viewpoints from both sides.

There are also fact-checking apps, such as the “USA Today Political Ad Tracker,” which partners with and follows the ad campaigns for the 2014 Senate, House, and gubernatorial races across the country.’s app, “Settle It!” enables you to search their “Truth-O-Meter” by name, keyword or subject. All the apps and websites mentioned here are offered completely free of charge.

While these sites appear to be unbiased, bias can still trickle into any political resource, so it’s important to keep asking questions, vary sources and maintain a skeptical eye towards all political ads. Doing so can enable voters to make confident, well-informed decisions.