Accuracy in Media

CNN misled the public in a recent report about how Americans feel about reopening the economy without a coronavirus vaccine.

The outlet claimed that Americans will not go to work unless there is a working coronavirus vaccine, which was not the case.

Not only did its headline include misleading language, but CNN’s tweet also promoted the false narrative.

CNN’s original headline read, “68% of Americans say a vaccine is needed before returning to normal life, new survey finds.” CNN claimed that a majority of Americans supported isolation and lockdown measures until a coronavirus vaccine has been developed and tested. It also asserted that two Gallup surveys back up their report. Their tweet also used similar wording as the article’s headline.

However, CNN’s headline was erroneous, misleading, and false. The Gallup survey question asked a different question than what CNN posed. Gallup asked, “How important are each of the following factors to you when thinking about your willingness to return to your normal activities?” 68 percent of respondents said that the “availability of a vaccine to prevent COVID-19” was “very important.”

CNN assumed that this response meant that a majority of Americans said a vaccine is necessary for them to return to work, but the question was asking about one’s willingness to go back to work. CNN was wrong in their assumption because the question asked about a person’s willingness to return to work, not a stringent requirement for someone to return to work.

Nor did the article link to either of the two cited Gallup surveys. University of Illinois professor Nicholas Grossman discovered the network’s lack of survey citations and found that only 9 percent of Americans would wait until a vaccine was developed.

CNN deleted the tweet, changed the article’s headline, and issued a “clarification” about the changes. It wrote the following:

“CLARIFICATION: The headline on this post was updated to clarify that the survey found 68% of Americans say an available vaccine is very important before returning to normal life. The post was also clarified to emphasize that respondents were rating the importance of each benchmark to their willingness to return to regular activities.”

The clarification acted as a correction but insinuated that the network was not to blame for misreading the data. It is an issue of semantics, but CNN should have issued a correction to demonstrate that it peddled misleading and false information that was corrected. There was no need for clarification since its article was based on false information.

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