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College of Information and Communications

  • Henry McMaster holding a press conference.He is at the podium (without a mask). An interpreter is signing (without a mask). Other officials stand around (wearing masks).

Social media posts push back against face-to-face classes in the fall

Posted July 17, 2020
Top photo: Gov. Henry McMaster speaking at a news conference about school closings.


Gov. Henry McMaster’s request that South Carolina schools reopen this fall in the midst of the coronavirus for daily, in-person classes is receiving a chilly reception on social media.

Since July 1, the University of South Carolina Social Media Insights Lab has been tracking conversations in the state about school reopening, reviewing 4,860 comments. From July 1 through July 14, there were mixed opinions. In comments containing sentiment, 28 percent had concerns about school reopening and 12 percent supported the idea. (More than half the posts were informational and did not contain sentiment.)

On July 15, Gov. McMaster held a news conference to announce his position, saying that parents should have a choice whether their children receive instruction in person or online. Schools, he said, should be open after Labor Day for face-to-face classes five days a week.

There was immediate opposition from teachers, school administrators and parents and those concerns were reflected on social media. An analysis of 915 comments made July 15 and 16 found significantly less support for reopening than what the lab had seen earlier in the month. Only four percent favored reopening while eight times as many comments, 31 percent, were negative.

“Conversations changed when the governor outlined his plan,” said Jack Landess, an Insights Lab analyst. “The posts we saw showed a lot of frustration, with fear that in-person classes will endanger teachers and school personnel as well as enhance the spread of COVID-19.”

Many people said individual school districts should decide for themselves how best to resume instruction in the fall.


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.

The Insights Lab software, Crimson Hexagon, uses artificial intelligence to interpret data. View a full list of reports and follow the lab on Twitter at @UofSCInsights.

For media inquiries or to request graphic files, contact Rebekah Friedman at rebekahb@mailbox.sc.edu or 803-576-7270.

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.


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