Posted May 5, 2020
Top image: One of the many tweets analyzed by the Social Media Insights Lab.
South Carolinians are still making up their minds about whether it is time to reopen the state during the coronavirus, according to a new analysis by the University of South Carolina Social Media Insights Lab.
University researchers looked at 5,159 social media posts in South Carolina between April 27 and May 4 and found that 20.3 percent generally support reopening the state, while 32.6 percent express concerns.
“This is a nuanced conversation and not necessarily as polarized as it may initially appear,” says Insights Lab Manager Kaitlyn Park. “Many of those who support reopening want to make sure the process is done correctly.”
More than one-fifth of those opposed to reopening say they will continue to stay home, regardless of what the governor does. South Carolina’s beaches emerged as the number one topic in conversations about reopening.
Some users say they welcome the revenue that will come with tourism, while others worry tourists will make the Palmetto State a future hot spot for COVID-19.
Conversations about schools and universities were less heated than those about the beaches and elicited higher percentages of news shares and neutral information.
Another new trend is the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s status as a top influencer. Analysts say DHEC’s updates on death and infection rates sparked online buzz — as well as misinformation and confusion.
"There’s debate and skepticism about the DHEC totals," Parks says. " Some feel the numbers are inflated while others believe they are incomplete. As a result, there’s a lot of speculation and misinformation being shared."
The Insights Lab has been tracking social media conversations about the coronavirus since March 1 and will continue to issue insights and reports about this data.
About the Social Media Insights Lab
The lab is part of the College of Information and Communications. It is used for teaching, academic research and public reports intended to help people better understand issues of the day.
How is sentiment calculated?
The lab uses software developed by Crimson Hexagon, now known as BrandWatch following a merger. The software gauges the emotional tone of conversations using auto-sentiment artificial intelligence technology. This feature is useful for identifying patterns within large sets of social media data, but it should be noted that auto-sentiment has its limits. For example, it does not always recognize sarcasm, nor does it account for posts which may express more than one emotion.