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Montclair Social Media Study: Negative Emotions on Social Media Dominate Gen Z Presidential Election Discussion as Voting Decisions Near

Posted in: School of Communication and Media News

A grahpic showing a voting box with a person holding a a ballot.

*More than One Million Social Media Posts were Studied*

A new study released May 2, 2024 by a team of faculty from the Joetta Di Bella and Fred C. Sautter III Center for Strategic Communication in the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University shows more than 75% of Gen Z have shared negative sentiment on social media surrounding the 2024 Presidential election, with emotions driven specifically by sadness (41%), disgust (27%), and anger (9%).

The study was authored by Dr. Yi Luo, Dr. Jin-A Choi, and Dr. Bond Benton by combing more than one million social media conversations from or targeted at Gen-Z social media users starting February 1 through April 7, 2024. The team used search terms including “2024 voting,” “2024 election,” and “2024 presidential election.” The data were contributed by 58% male and 42% female X users. Notably, this period witnessed a staggering 36,000% increase of social conversations related to Gen-Z and the 2024 presidential election compared to the previous two months.

“The amount of negativity from Gen Z was eye-opening” said Dr. Jin-A Choi, Assistant Professor at Montclair and Director of Data Analytics for the Center for Strategic Communication. “However, it would not be surprising to see the negativity increase over the summer as each party’s nominations become official and as we draw closer to the Presidential election in November.”

The following Gen Z emotions were most prevalent in the study:

Sadness (41%). Feelings of helplessness and dejection dominated the negative sentiment from Gen Zs on social media, highlighted by sorrow over the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion rights, the momentum of Donald Trump’s candidacy, current economic impact (e.g., surging food prices, rising inflation rates, etc.) of the Biden administration, and doubts about President Biden’s mental wellness. Notably, a second strong wave of sadness emerged right after Biden’s State of the Union speech on March 8.

Disgust (27%). Disgust, accounting for nearly one third of the emotions identified on social conversations, revealed Gen Z’s feelings over a series of sociopolitical issues, including legal rights among the trans community, restricted abortion rights, classified document mismanagement by Presidents Biden and Trump, mental as well as physical wellness for Democratic and Republican’s presidential candidates, and enforcement of border policies.

Anger (9%). The outrage exhibited on social media appears to shift with the evolving Israel-Hamas war. Specifically, social media users vented strong fury against the Biden administration’s support and funding violence in Rafah, explicitly calling it “a genocide.”

Staying Hopeful: A more promising and positive theme emerged as Gen Z social media users were urging others to ignore polling results and to instead focus on voting and to exercise that Constitutional right.

Other Key Findings: Social conversations championing women’s rights jumped 74% in the observation period, including a staggering 93% increase of social chats about humanitarian aid, food assistance, opening aid corridors, and women as well as girls’ rights in Gaza.

“The data show that Gen Z social media users are understandably emotional about a number of issues,” said Dr. Luo. “There are many existing hot-button issues and undoubtedly new ones will emerge that will shape how Gen Z feels and acts surrounding this historic Presidential election.”

The full study, which can be found here, is the sixteenth from the Center of Strategic Communication, which provides social media analytics tools and training for faculty and students for classroom learning and research projects.


About the School of Communication and Media: The School of Communication and Media offers a range of dynamic programs in communication and media to a talented and diverse student population of over 1,800. Offering degrees in film and television, social media and public relations, advertising, journalism and digital media, sports communication, communication and media studies, animation and visual effects, and an MA devoted to strategic communication, the School prepares the next generation of communication and media practitioners and leaders. The School houses award-winning student programs that include WMSC RadioThe Montclarion newspaper,  Hawk Communications Agency, the Red Hawk Sports NetworkHawk+ OTT streaming platform, and News Lab, as well as the Center for Cooperative Media, which serves the public by working to grow and strengthen local journalism. Student projects and programs have recently received national recognition from PRSSA’s Bateman Competition, an Edward R Murrow Award, several Marconi Award nominations, and a College Television Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Media Contact: Keith Green, School of Communication and Media, 973-655-3701 or