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Social media sentiment favors Cunningham in Congressional race

Posted October 28, 2020

U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham enjoys more positive social media sentiment and also has less negative sentiment than his Republican challenger, state Rep. Nancy Mace, according to a new analysis by the Social Media Insights Lab at the University of South Carolina. 

Lab researchers analyzed almost 25,000 posts about Cunningham and Mace made in South Carolina since Jan. 1.  For Cunningham, 28 percent of the comments were positive, 22 percent were negative and the rest were informational and did not contain emotion.

For Mace, 24 percent of the comments were positive (4 percent lower than Cunningham), 27 percent were negative (5 percent higher than Cunningham) and the rest were neutral. 

With a share of voice of 75 percent, Cunningham was by far the more talked about candidate.

“Cunningham is the incumbent and that usually is an advantage,” said Kaitlyn Park, Insights Lab manager. “Attempts to damage Cunningham’s reputation during the survey period seemingly did not resonate in the posts we reviewed.”

Mace did not receive much attention on social media until she was endorsed by President Trump in June, when she saw a spike in positive mentions.  More recently, she has been criticized on social media for misleading attacks suggesting her opponent supported legislation that would force the closure of the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot on Parris Island. The fate of the Parris Island base was the top trending topic on social media during the survey period. 

Cunningham has received support on social media for his opposition to offshore drilling, his fight against Gov. McMaster’s efforts to divert coronavirus relief funds to private schools as well as own fight against COVID-19.

“While this historically has been a Republican district and the polls show the race is close, Cunningham’s dominant share of voice on social media is a good sign for the incumbent,” Park said. 

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, Brandwatch Consumer Research, formerly known as 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 or 803-576-7270.

How is sentiment calculated?
The lab uses software, Brandwatch Consumer Research, formerly known as Crimson Hexagon. 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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