FACT CHECK: 6 Claims For The Second Democratic Debate

Aislinn Murphy | Assistant Managing Editor

CNN held the second Democratic presidential debate in Detroit this week. To accommodate the crowded presidential field, the debate was split into two nights, with 10 candidates appearing on stage each night.

Here are six checks on their claims.

Claim 1: “90 percent of Republicans want universal background checks,” said South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg on night one.

Buttigieg may have been referring to a Quinnipiac University poll from May that reported 92 percent of Republicans support requiring background checks for all gun buyers.

The polling organization has been tracking the question in recent months. In a March survey of 1,120 voters, 89 percent of Republicans said they support universal background checks. That percentage remained unchanged from a January poll that asked the same question.

Overall, 94 percent of voters support universal background checks, according to the most recent poll.

Claim 2: “As governor of Colorado, [I] created the number one economy in the country,” said former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on night one.

A ranking published by U.S. News and World Report put Colorado’s economy at number one in the country for the third consecutive year.

However, federal government economic data ranks Colorado behind several other states in real gross domestic product growth and unemployment, two factors commonly used to measure economic performance.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Colorado ranked seventh in real GDP growth in 2018. (It was 4th in 2017 and 11th in 2016.) The state ranks even lower when measuring per capita real GDP growth: 15th in 2018, 7th in 2017, and 24th in 2016.

The unemployment rate remained below the national average during Hickenlooper’s two terms as governor, state and federal statistics show, though other states had even lower unemployment rates.

Other economic rankings do not have Colorado at number one. CNBC, for example, has the state’s economy in 8th place for 2018.

Claim 3: “Hate crimes are on the rise, every single one of the last three years,” said former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke on night one.

There were 7,175 hate crime incidents reported by law enforcement agencies in 2017, according to a report published by the FBI last year. That number is up from 6,121 in 2016 and 5,850 in 2015.

However, a majority of hate crimes go unreported, according to the Justice Department, and law enforcement agencies aren’t required to share their statistics so the number of hate crimes may actually be higher.

The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, which is based out of California State University, also reported a rise in hate crimes, noting, “Last year marked the fifth consecutive increase in hate crimes, and the steepest rise since 2015.”

Hate crimes in 30 U.S. cities rose 9 percent in 2018, according to 2019 report.

Claim 4: “After the last debate, for example, I went to a place in Florida called Homestead, and there is a private detention facility being paid for by your taxpayer dollars – a private detention facility – that currently houses 2,700 children,” said California Sen. Kamala Harris on night two.

The Homestead facility has the capacity to hold 2,700 unaccompanied children, but it is housing less than half that many, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. As of July 22, approximately 990 children are being housed there. The average length of stay at Homestead for unaccompanied children is 36 days.

Claim 5: “Truck drivers – the most common job in 29 states, including this one,” said entrepreneur Andrew Yang on night two.

A map published by National Public Radio in 2015 showed that the most common job in 29 states was truck driving. NPR used more than 30 years of Census Bureau data to make that determination, though some doubted the map’s accuracy.

“NPR looked at a data set that aggregated various kinds of truck drivers into a single category but didn’t aggregate other occupations in the same way,” wrote Rex Nutting in a MarketWatch op-ed. “The sorting was inconsistent, so the comparison isn’t a legitimate one, and it makes us think that truck driving is the most common occupation in many states.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 157 million employed people in 2018, of which an estimated 1.8 million drove trucks for a living. Meanwhile, the American Trucking Association reported around 3.5 million truck drivers for the same year.

Yang believes trucking will be negatively impacted by automation in the coming years, writing on his campaign website, “Self-driving truck technology is rapidly becoming sophisticated enough to replace these drivers.”

Claim 6: “The important number in Vice President Biden’s remarks just now is that the United States was only 15 percent of global emissions,” said Yang on night two.

The U.S. accounted for approximately 15 percent of global carbon emissions in 2016, according to a 2018 report from the International Energy Agency. India and China, other major contributors to emissions, accounted for around 6 and 28 percent, respectively.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Global Carbon Project report similar figures.

In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, of which carbon dioxide emissions make up about 76 percent, the U.S. accounts for around 13 percent of global emissions. A 2017 study from the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research puts the U.S. share at 13.5 percent in 2012, while Climate Watch has the U.S. accounting for 12.9 percent in 2014.

China leads the world in both carbon and total greenhouse gas emissions, according to Forbes.

Aislinn Murphy

Assistant Managing Editor