Academic-based researchers dispute CDC data with counter-report titled “No, Americans are not gargling bleach: How bad data inflated estimates in the latest CDC report, and how to prevent this from happening in the future”
New York City, NY, June 18, 2020 — On June 5, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report titled, “Knowledge and Practices Regarding Safe Household Cleaning and Disinfection for COVID-19 Prevention — United States, May 2020.” In the report, CDC researchers described an online survey in which Americans were asked about their cleaning behaviors and knowledge of safe cleaning practices. The report, which has been covered by over 144 news outlets globally, states that 39% of Americans participated in “highrisk behavior” over the previous month including cleaning practices such as washing food with bleach, inhaling cleaning products, and gargling disinfectants.
CloudResearch’s report indicates that the findings of the CDC are likely a gross overestimate of the prevalence of high-risk cleaning behaviors in the American public, and that the CDC data are likely inflated by low quality respondents who did not answer survey questions accurately. Data quality tools are a necessary component of online research to eliminate respondents who are inattentive, responding somewhat randomly, or fraudulent actors. CloudResearch replicated the survey practices of the CDC both with and without data quality checks. Without data quality checks, results appear identical to CDC findings. But, when using the SentryTM data quality tool which removes low-quality respondents, the prevalence of alarming high-risk behaviors diminished significantly. Many survey participants that failed the Sentry attention filters disproportionately stated they were engaging in the high-risk behaviors outlined by the CDC report. In CDC data, 39% of people reported high-risk cleaning practices, while CloudResearch found that with data quality checks this number drops to 20%. Additionally, in a comparison of data with and without attention checks, CloudResearch found that less than 1% of people reported engaging in each of the following behaviors: drinking or gargling diluted bleach solution, soapy water, or a household cleaner. In the CDC data, about 4% of people reported engaging in each behavior.
“Given the purpose of the survey and its association with a highly-visible government agency, it is imperative for researchers to understand their online resources and carefully cultivate a respondent pool that accurately reflects the public at large,” said CloudResearch Co-Founder and Chief Research Officer, Leib Litman. He added, “at a point when there is historically low trust in public institutions, we’re working to make sure the industry avoids these types of discrepancies going forward and hope more researchers adopt strong data quality control measures like Sentry.”
The full CloudResearch report can be found here: CloudResearch-CDC Survey Analysis.
CloudResearch is an online platform that connects researchers with more than 50 million research participants worldwide. We provide tools that make it easy to target people based on demographics and carry out complex projects. Specializing in data quality, we help researchers in the academic, public, and private sectors gather quality data, quickly, accurately, and easily. Find more information at www.cloudresearch.com.
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