Update: CNN’s framing for the story sourced in an earlier version of this article is coming under scrutiny for being misleading. Writing in The Atlantic this Friday, Yascha Mounk contends that the story is a good example of how misinformation spreads, “and how Americans are desperate to believe the worst about one another.”
The original press release from 5WPR notes that in a survey of 737 beer-drinking Americans, 38 percent said they “would not buy Corona under any circumstances now.” By presenting this finding in the context of other questions that are explicitly about the coronavirus, the press release creates the impression that Americans’ reluctance to drink the beer is due to the coronavirus. “There is no question that Corona beer is suffering because of the coronavirus,” Ronn Torossian, the CEO of 5WPR, says in the press release. “Could one imagine walking into a bar and saying ‘Hey, can I have a Corona?’ or ‘Pass me a Corona.’”
But this connection is manufactured, and Torossian is ignoring far more mundane reasons Americans might not buy a Corona, including that they don’t like the taste. Of those Americans who did report regularly drinking Corona, only 4 percent said they would now stop drinking the beer.
According to the CNN piece, two surveys released this week show that Corona’s brand is suffering from people connecting a potential global pandemic to its beer.
“5W Public Relations said that 38% of Americans wouldn’t buy Corona ‘under any circumstances’ because of the outbreak, and another 14% said they wouldn’t order a Corona in public. The survey encompasses polling from 737 beer drinkers in the United States,” CNN’s Jordan Valisnky reports.
“In another survey conducted by YouGov, the firm found consumers’ intent to purchase Corona fell to its lowest level in two years,” the report continues. “The survey also showed that Corona’s buzz score, a metric that that measures favorability, has dropped significantly since the beginning of the year.”
According to Mounk, CNN and others who picked up the story (including this website) “have made themselves unwitting tools of a clever misinformation campaign.”
“The strange virality of the Corona poll demonstrates that there are ruthless PR flacks who are willing to play fast and loose with the truth,” Mounk writes. “It also shows that there are many journalists at supposedly trustworthy news outlets who are so desperate to rush to publication that they can wind up misinforming their public. (What else is new?)”
Read the full article over at CNN, which as of this writing hasn’t been updated or corrected yet.