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November 1, 2021 | Articles

Author: Dr. Nicole Olynk Widmar, Associate Head and Professor, Purdue University Department of Agricultural Economics,
Dr. Courtney Bir, Assistant professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Oklahoma State University

Last week, we revisited the national sentiment towards Halloween 2020 relative to pre-pandemic times. We’re tired of comparing ourselves to pre-pandemic normalcy, but we’re ready to chart our path forward into the next frontier … we think. Negative comments in 2020 were obviously pandemic-related, with the top two negatives from nearly five million mentions in October 2020 being “not worth getting sick” and “COVID”. Yet, net sentiment went from 78% in October 2019 to 81% in 2020. While we were collectively concerned, we were also (apparently) motivated to adapt and generally had positive online media surrounding the overall experience of Halloween 2020 relative to 2019.

On October 25th, we opened our polling question and asked you to weigh in on whether national online and social media sentiment towards Halloween 2021 was going to be better or worse than 2020. Your (n=22) responses have been tallied as of this morning. As it turns out, Consumer Corner enthusiasts are an optimistic bunch with forty-five percent of respondents thinking Halloween 2021 would have a much better sentiment surrounding it than Halloween 2020. Now, admittedly, it was a loaded question; after all, we are asking you to compare this year to the year in which the most positive emblem remains toilet paper.

bar chart showing sentiment expectations for Halloween 2021 compared to 2020

Overall, Consumer Corner readers were optimistic about 2021 national sentiment. Net sentiment for the month of October 2021 came in at 81%, which is identical to what October 2020 posted (Remember, net sentiment is on a scale of -100% to +100%, so 81% is quite high).

Taking a look at 2021 data, which again employed the same straightforward and intentionally constrained set of keywords (Halloween, #Halloween, Trick-or-Treat, #TrickorTreat, Trunk-or-Treat, #TrunkorTreat, and #Halloween2021), the overall mentions (or volume of data) was down only very slightly with October 2021 coming within five thousand mentions of last year.

Volume of media really didn’t change from 2020 and, surprisingly, neither did net sentiment. What did change were the topics of conversation and the top words driving that sentiment. Top terms in 2020 were almost all COVID-19 related … “not worth getting sick”, “COVID” and lots (and lots!) of positivity around making it safe or safer. 2021’s top terms are less pandemic and more Halloween! Happy Halloween and the pumpkin emoji were the top positive drivers, while negative drivers were “scary” and references to scary and/or difficult “costumes”.

In a rarity for our work in online media, two of the three top positive drivers were emojis, the pumpkin being second and the cute friendly-looking ghost emoji being third. Is the emoji more popular at Halloween? Are we just coming to use and like emojis more? Do we need a research project on the use of emojis surrounding different holidays and the associated sentiment (Clearly the answer is yes, but we digress)? With candy binging underway and Halloween 2021 in the books, the 2021 holiday season is declared OPEN!

Next week we talk turkey — prices that is …

Halloween 2021 Net Sentiment infographic