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College of Information and Communications

  • Police in uniform line up in defense against the riots.

Many South Carolinians sympathize with Black Lives Matter protests

Posted June 4, 2020
Top photo by Gavin Jackson


South Carolinians on Twitter expressed far more comments in support of Black Lives Matter protests than criticism of the violence that has accompanied some of them, according to the University of South Carolina Social Media Insights Lab.

University researchers analyzed 8,238 comments posted between May 30 and June 3 and found that more than a third of the posts supported the protests.  By comparison, 7.8 percent of the posts expressed support for the police and city officials, 6.3 percent criticized the police and 5.8 percent criticized acts of violence and looting. The largest segment of posts, 43.2 percent, were neutral and did not express an opinion.

“South Carolina is a Republican, conservative state, so the amount of support for the protestors is a little surprising,” said Katlyn Park, manager of the Insights Lab. 

A word cloud generated by the lab’s Crimson Hexagon software identifies key words found in the posts and shows the range of comments and concerns found in the analysis.

Discussions about the protests have completely overshadowed comments about COVID-19, the subject that has dominated social media conversations since March 1.

This graphic shows that comments about the protests exploded over the weekend. After violence in Columbia Saturday night, there were 13,812 Twitter posts the next day about the protests versus 3,279 posts about COVID-19. 

“Conversations about the coronavirus have been dropping since South Carolina started to reopen in late May,” said Park. “COVID-19 just doesn’t seem to be a topic of concern right now, though we have seen a few posts questioning whether the protests will lead to more cases.” The top influencer for South Carolina conversations about the coronavirus has been President Trump.

For conversations about the protests, prominent South Carolinians like U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, NBC Today Show anchor Craig Melvin and WIS sportscaster Rick Henry were among the most retweeted commenters.  All expressed pleas for peace.


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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