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It was a "Happy Halloween" after all, Purdue professor explains

Despite fears inflation would dampen this year’s Halloween spirit, sentiment towards the holiday was high, a Purdue University Department of Agricultural Economics internet scraping found. 

Nicole Olynk Widmar, professor and associate department head of Agricultural Economics, said her analysis of Halloween sentiment this year showed a more positive outlook filled with festive text emojis. The pumpkin and ghost images were in the top three positive sentiments. Comparing this year to the 2021 sentiment was tough, Widmar explained, as consumers were celebrating a return to some normalcy to the season after celebrations were canceled in 2020. 

Each year, Widmar scours the internet for key phrases associated with holidays to better understand what consumers are looking at, paying attention to and talking about online and on social media. The annual goal is to monitor and assess perceptions of food, agriculture and agribusiness supply chains for research and Extension outreach purposes. 

“We frequently discuss the spending around the holidays throughout the fall,” Widmar said. “If people are facing rising prices around Halloween, then we start to ask what that means for their spending throughout the holidays season.” 

According to Widmar’s findings, the top three positive sentiment drivers in 2022 for the Halloween season were “Happy Halloween,” “happy” and “favorite,” while the top three negative sentiment drivers were “tamper,” “existence,” and “not have real sign.” 

Net sentiment, a measure of overall negativity and positivity surrounding a topic or set of search results, is on a scale of negative 100 percent to positive 100 percent.  Widmar’s 2022 analysis indicates the sentiment is nearly equivalent to last year's 81 percent, coming in at 80 percent. Thus, Halloween ranks quite highly overall.  

“Since we started looking at net sentiment and online media conversations surrounding the holidays, we have seen some interesting ‘signs of the times’ during the COVID-19 era along with a general movement towards more media (emojis) in place of words," Widmar explained.

Overall, the results from the Halloween 2022 data skimming show consumers are feeling quite festive, she said. In terms of timing, over 50 percent of the total mentions of Halloween and related terms occurred between October 27 and 31, with 25 percent occurring on Halloween itself, which came as a surprise to Widmar given the holiday fell on a Monday this year.  

“We know consumers are facing rising prices in grocery stores, and although there was some media coverage about candy costs in anticipation of Halloween, that concern was not amongst the top expressed in our search results,” Widmar said. “With candy binging underway and Halloween 2022 behind us, the fall holiday season is declared open.” 

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