The Buzz

Support for SC May 1 teacher protest was strong on social media, USC analysis finds

Social media responded overwhelmingly positive in favor of the May 1 teacher protest at the State House, according to an analysis released by University of South Carolina researchers.

About two-thirds of the 10,000 tweets, public Facebook posts, blogs and news mentions regarding the protests were positive, according to the analysis from USC’s Insights Lab. Analysis also noted that democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders published social media posts supporting the rally.

Those posting in favor of the rally included more than just educators. Many of those who posted included those who weren’t at the rally but spoke in favor of the teachers’ cause, said Kaitlyn Park, the manager of USC’s social media insights lab and the one who conducted the analysis.

“The great thing about social media analysis is you can drill down to not only what is being said, but who is saying it,” Park said.

Roughly 10,000 teachers gathered Wednesday outside the S.C. State House to rally in favor of increasing education funding and reducing class sizes, according to a previous article from The State.

Roughly a quarter of all responses to the protest were neutral (such as news updates, crowd size estimates, and negative mentions of elected officials) and only 8 percent of all responses to the protest were negative, according to USC’s analysis.

USC conducted the analysis by searching all mentions of SCforED, All Out May 1 and several related hashtags using technology developed by Boston-based Crimson Hexagon’s Opinion Monitor, according to a statement from USC.

Crimson Hexagon’s technology is powered by artificial intelligence, but it still has limitations, Park said.

“For example if someone were to say ‘Kamala Harris is killing it,’ that might get counted as a negative,” Park said.

However, an opinion monitor tool allows humans to re-sort tweets from positive to negative or vice-versa if the machine takes a joke, a colloquialism or sarcasm out of context, Park said.

“We’re going to be training faculty and students how to use this technology,” Park said.

USC’s Insight Lab plans to run similar reports on major, newsworthy events in South Carolina or with political candidates, Park said.

“We’re tapping into conversations around the state and beyond to gain concrete, measurable insights about the issues, events and people that matter to South Carolinians,” Tom Reichert, dean of the college of Information and Communication, said in a statement.