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Viral CNN claim about COVID-19 vaccine, returning to 'normal life' completely misrepresented poll results

'Nine percent, you may have noticed, is less than 68 percent'

John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

CNN claimed in a viral tweet this week that a recent Gallup survey showed the vast majority of Americans said they "need" a coronavirus vaccine before returning to normal life.

"68% of Americans say a coronavirus vaccine is needed before returning to normal life, a new survey finds," CNN blasted on Twitter.

Image source: Twitter screenshot

As presented, the poll seemingly indicated support for extended lockdown orders because Americans remain too fearful to return to normal life.

Except that's not what the Gallup survey indicated. In fact, CNN completely misrepresented what the poll found.

What did Gallup find?

Gallup asked: "How important are each of the following factors to you when thinking about your willingness to return to your normal activities?"

When specifically asked about a COVID-19 vaccine, 68% of respondents answered "very important."

The respondents, however, did not say they "needed" a vaccine to return to normal life. Instead, they merely indicated that a vaccine is important when considering their willingness to return to normal life, which does not actually suggest they would not return to normal life without a vaccine.

Nicholas Grossman of ArcDigital wrote:

The article doesn't link to any polls— never a good sign — but mentions "two Gallup surveys." I searched Gallup's polling on coronavirus, and the survey questions are less ambiguous regarding "normal life," with results that differ substantially from CNN's claim.

One question asks "how soon would you return to your normal day-to-day activities" if "there were no government restrictions," giving four options. The most popular answer is "after the number of new cases declines significantly," getting 40 percent in the most recent survey. The least popular answer is "after a coronavirus vaccine is developed." Only 9 percent went with that.

Nine percent, you may have noticed, is less than 68 percent.

How did CNN respond?

The news outlet deleted its tweet with the false claim, and added a clarification to its story.

"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 says.

Grossman responded by saying that CNN's clarified headline is not the "best framing" because the story still cherry-picks the Gallup survey to project its vaccines-are-necessary-to-end-lockdowns narrative.

But, Grossman wrote, "Unlike the original headline, the new one accurately conveys something in the Gallup survey."

(H/T: Mediaite)

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