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  • Jamie Harrison and Common

Social media comments boost Harrison as election day nears

Posted October 30, 2020
Top photo: Jamie Harrsion (left) and rapper Common (right) at the “Get Out the Vote” concert at Benedict College held on Oct. 26. Photo from Jamie Harrison's Twitter.

Jaime Harrison continues to enjoy an advantage on social media as his race against Sen. Lindsey Graham enters its final days.

According to the Social Media Insights Lab at the University of South Carolina, Harrison leads Graham in positive sentiment (27 percent for Harrison vs. 19 percent for Graham) among almost 57,000 social media posts made in South Carolina since Oct. 1.  

The lab also measured negative sentiment and Graham again fared less well than his challenger (36 percent negative sentiment for Graham vs. 22 percent for Harrison).

“Jaime Harrison is outperforming Lindsey Graham on social media,” said Kaitlyn Park, Insights Lab manager. “But elections are decided at the polls, not on social media, so the only thing we can say with certainty is that Harrison is running a competitive race with a share of voice, or number of comments, similar to his better-known opponent.”

A Monday campaign rally in Columbia with rapper Common and radio personality Charlamagne Tha God provided a boost to Harrison. The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court helped Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee that approved Barrett. 

Last Friday, Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs encouraged South Carolinians not to vote for Graham. On the same day, Fox News Channel ran a story interviewing South Carolina Republicans who said they do not intend to vote for Graham.  To some, it seemed that President Trump was sending a message to the state through his surrogates, and it might be bad news for Graham.  

“We looked specifically at social media reaction last Friday and Saturday and quite frankly, we didn’t see much impact,” said Park.  “Gov. Henry McMaster’s social media post supporting Graham provoked more conversation.”

The Insights Lab has been tracking the Graham/Harrison race since Jan. 1, reviewing more than 233,000 social media posts. In this period, Harrison generally has had higher positive sentiment than Graham and his negatives have been lower. However, the number of people talking about Harrison on social media was comparatively small until August, when he surpassed Graham. Since then, the number of people talking about each candidate has been relatively even.

“Often as candidates become better known, there is more scrutiny and we see an increase in the number of negative comments about them,” Park said. “However, we did not find that to be the case with Harrison.

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.

View a full list of reports  and follow the lab on Twitter at @UofSCInsights

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