The Social Insights Lab displaying 3 screens. One is a live stream of twitter posts about the SC primary, the large screen in the middle is a pie chart comparing candidate social volume on primary day the third screen is a word cloud. Some of the biggest words are #SCprimary, vote, polls, and candidate names.

Students monitor social media buzz during SC Democratic primary

As voting closed for the South Carolina Democratic primary, student assistant analysts at UofSC’s Social Media Insights Lab monitored and analyzed the publicly available buzz and sentiment surrounding the candidates and results of the primary.

Housed in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, the Social Media Insights Lab uses artificial intelligence technology-powered Crimson Hexagon software to generate, visualize and interpret data on everything from consumer sentiment to crisis response. Since its launch in 2019, the lab has greatly enhanced the university’s research efforts and raised its profile as a thought-leader in social media analytics.  

Beginning in March 2019, the Social Media Insights Lab has been focusing on the S.C. primary as part of the UofSC Insights Initiative. Leading up to the 2020 presidential election, researchers at the lab are generating in-depth reports on each of the Democratic presidential candidates as they make their case to South Carolina’s voters. 

Each report will examine what social data can reveal about public sentiment in the Palmetto State and beyond, providing a deeper understanding of the issues influencing the 2020 presidential race.

Reports will be available on the College of information and Communications website. 

Student assistant analysts Hanna Wilde and Jonah Rotholz are monitoring share of voice, sentiment and other social media listening aspects regarding the candidates.

"Essentially what we are doing is analyzing the results of the election on social media. We are looking at  how closely what we are observing with our tools on social media reflects the results of the polls," says Rotholz, who is a senior information science major.

"The most interesting thing so far is seeing how closely real world events track what we are seeing on social media. We often hear the quote 'Twitter isn’t real life' but in a lot of ways it is, and politics is definitely one of those areas."

Timeline of the primary watch party at The Social Media Insights Lab

5 p.m.

I've arrived at the social media insights lab where lead analyst Kaitlyn Park and student interns are hard at work analyzing the buzz surrounding the primary. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders have been neck and neck for the lead in share of voice, but Biden currently surpasses Sanders by 0.6%. Sentiment for posts about Biden are primarily positive, while posts about Sanders lean more negative. 

5:15 p.m.

There have been isolated reports about problems with voting, however, there doesn't seem to be a significant amount of social discussion regarding polling issues.

5:45 p.m.

Dean of the College of Information and Communications Tom Reichert stops by the watch party to check in on the researchers and the election.

6:30 p.m.

Sentiment for posts about Biden and Sanders have now flipped. Posts about Sanders are primarily positive, while posts about Biden are more negative.

7 p.m. 

Voting precincts close.

7:01 p.m.

The Associated Press calls Biden the winner of the S.C. primary almost immediately after the polls closed.

7:30 p.m.

There has been a significant surge in mentions by South Carolina Twitter users about Biden. The former vice president's share of voice is rising fast with over 440 mentions in the 30 minutes since voting has closed.

8 p.m.

There have now been over 1,000 tweets from South Carolina about Biden since the polls closed and over 250 tweets mentioning Sanders.

To stay up to date with more insights from the UofSC’s Social Media Insights Lab, follow @UofSCInsights on Twitter.

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