Social analysis shows how initial hopefulness evaporated globally as the first week of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine unfolded
As the war in Ukraine unfolded last week, emotional reactions resounded around the world. But what did those reactions look like in aggregate, did they change as the crisis unfolded and what topics generated the most intense emotions? To answer these questions, Qualtrics analysts used XM Discover, its natural language processing and listening tool, to filter and analyze more than 200,000 Twitter posts about the invasion of Ukraine to understand the most emotions of people around the globe as they took in the headlines. The results reveal an intense global emotional response to the human toll of the conflict, along with economic worries about the impact of sanctions globally.
As the news unfolded from Feb 28 through March 6, emotions around the world evolved from anger and frustration to fear and confusion, and initial hopefulness gave way to sadness, according to the research.
“We’ve never entered into a war with so much real-time information about how people around the world are feeling,” said Nicole Martin, the researcher who led the analysis. “This technology gives us insight into rapidly shifting emotions as a crisis unfolds. The fickle nature of social media provides a clear understanding of how consumers digest breaking new stories and anticipate how they’ll be impacted.”
Monday, Feb. 28: Sanctions
On Monday, Feb. 28, Twitter conversations across the globe echoed mass anger and frustration in reaction to Putin’s actions and U.S. President Biden announced harsh economic sanctions toward Russia. Using Natural Language Understanding technology (NLU), Qualtrics assessed the emotional intensity of these conversations and found highly charged rhetoric in posts about Putin and Zelensky.
Figure 1: Above shows the emotional intensity in words related to Anger and Frustration. Darker purple indicates higher emotional intensity.
March 1, 2022: Attacks continue, along with additional sanctions
Nations across the globe provided increased relief and support to Ukraine, increasing the amount of kindness and hope expressed across social media. The XM Discover measured the full range of each emotion expressed. For example, within kindness and hope conversations, individuals also discussed their hopelessness amidst the growing conflict.
Figure 2: For each of the top 3 emotions expressed (Anger & Frustration, Kindness & Hope, Fear & Confusion), the left bar displays prevalence of that emotion on March 1 compared to the right bar, which represents the prevalence on Feb 28.
In conversations about solidarity with Ukraine and frustration with Putin’s actions, we simultaneously discovered highly emotionally charged topics related to economic concerns. Individuals discussed the impact of sanctions on the Russian economy, combined with stock market concerns and rising inflation.
Figure 3: Above shows the emotional intensity in topics of Twitter conversations on March 1. Darker purple indicates higher emotional intensity.
March 2, 2022: Gas prices and refugees
Notable growth in emotionally charged rhetoric occurred through conversations about gas prices and refugees. Within these conversations, we found polarizing opinions amid simultaneous economic concerns. As the week went on, emotions shifted toward more anger and frustration with the invasion and corresponding damage to the rest of the world.
Figure 4: For each of the top 3 emotions expressed (Anger & Frustration, Kindness & Hope, Fear & Confusion), the left bar displays prevalence of that emotion on March 2 compared to the right bar, which represents the prevalence on March 1.
March 3 and 4: Power plant attack
Emotions of fear, confusion, anger, and frustration continued as refugees fled Ukraine and Russia attacked Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine. What’s more, anticipation appeared within conversations, including discussions of refugee arrivals and future actions among global players.
Figure 5: For each of the top 3 emotions expressed (Anger & Frustration, Kindness & Hope, Fear & Confusion), the left bar displays prevalence of that emotion on March 3 & 4.
March 5 & 6: Surpassing 1 million refugees
On Sunday, March 6, more than 1.5 million refugees had fled Ukraine. General frustration with the Russian invasion, policies towards refugees, and economic repercussions drove further growth in anger and frustration. What’s more, growing refugee numbers led to questions about COVID-19 spread and policies to address mass migration amidst the two-year pandemic.
Figure 6: For each of the top 3 emotions expressed (Anger & Frustration, Kindness & Hope, Fear & Confusion), the left bar displays prevalence of that emotion on March 5 & 6 compared to the right bar, which represents the prevalence on March 3 & 4.
Figure 7: Above shows the emotional intensity in words related to refugees. Darker purple indicates higher emotional intensity.
How We Did It – The Methodology
XM Discover captures emotions through our natural language understanding (NLU) by analyzing unstructured data and extracting meaning at scale, helping us understand how people experience major events in near real-time. By analyzing more than 200,000 tweets posted publicly on Twitter, XM Discover analyzed the language within these tweets to identify emotions and related themes. Emotions are identified by an individual’s language, such as an individual staying, “as unsure as I feel.” XM Discover can tag that tweet as expressing “fear and confusion.” From there, we aggregated those tweets, assigned them meaning, and produced a digestible snapshot of the public reaction. XM Discover’s ability to sort through social media data and isolate emotions provides deeper context regarding the impact of the invasion of Ukraine on the global population. As the situation develops, we will continue to monitor the public’s reaction to provide insight into how current events shape global perspectives.
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