Accuracy in Media

The impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and his phone call with the Ukrainian president has dominated the news cycle for weeks, and showed no sign of abating anytime soon as both Republican and Democratic lawmakers spar over the validity of an impeachment inquiry. The mainstream media continued to provide analysis and opinion on an investigation that has yet to bear groundbreaking revelations, including CNN.

CNN published an analysis headlined, “Trump’s impeachment polling is historically unprecedented,” by analyst Harry Enten. Enten previously worked for the data analytics website FiveThirtyEight.

The analysis was fair in outlining the numbers from past impeachments, such as Richard Nixon in 1973-1974 and Bill Clinton in 1998. It correctly pointed out that impeachment is typically unpopular with the American public when it is first begun. In 1998, a poll found 45 percent approved of impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton and in 1973, only 38 percent approved of Nixon’s impeachment.

Contrast those figures to the 46 percent of Americans polled who approve of Trump’s impeachment, which was released within the past two weeks. The CNN analysis claimed that the 46 percent poll number demonstrated that Americans are more in favor of Trump’s impeachment than Clinton or Nixon. In order to make the 46 percent poll number stand out more, the analysis compared it with Clinton’s 45 percent and Nixon’s 38 percent and said that Trump’s poll number is larger than those two previous presidents.

Although that claim is true, the difference between Clinton and Trump’s number is 1% and is not an astronomically large difference. Regarding Nixon’s 38 percent poll number, CNN admitted that “close to a majority wanted him out” later in the impeachment process and that the 38 percent figure is not accurate because it was polled earlier in the impeachment process. Confusing readers even more, CNN said that 43 percent of Americans wanted Nixon to be impeached as impeachment proceedings progressed. Therefore, there was only a 3 percent difference between Trump’s and Nixon’s poll numbers on the issue of impeachment, which is not a significant difference.

The analysis’s conclusion is that Americans “think Trump did something wrong that, at a minimum, deserves to be looked into for possible impeachment. He is in historically unprecedented waters. The impeachment numbers he’s facing now are really not good for him, given where we are in the process.”

However, CNN’s use of numbers is very misleading and inaccurate, since Trump’s poll numbers are not far off from Clinton’s or Nixon’s poll numbers during their impeachment proceedings.

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