A Potential Gas Stove Ban
What social listening can tell us about the culture war’s latest battleground
Henry Chapman, Research and Insights Analyst
Gas stove study makes news
In early January 2023, scientists released a study concluding that 12.7% of childhood asthma could be traced directly to the gas-burning stoves found in their parents' homes. The scientists who discovered the connection were reportedly so alarmed, they removed the gas stoves from their homes after their study. This was not a new finding. In fact, The New York Times reported a link between respiratory illness and gas stoves back in April 1973.
Worried about the potential health concerns, the Biden administration reportedly considered a ban on the sales of future gas stoves. In this brief, we examine social media’s discourse on gas stoves to show that after the Biden administration’s involvement, the discussion around gas stoves moved from health concerns to partisan bickering.
Gas stoves: post volume
Before the study and potential ban discussion, gas stoves were not a particularly hot topic of conversation. This falls in line with our longstanding knowledge of social media trends: gas stoves have been a basic appliance in US society for so long, social media users don’t typically post about them, certainly not with any kind of frequency.
That changed immediately after the Biden administration announced a potential ban: posts around gas stoves leapt from a baseline of 0 to a maximum of 277,455 on Jan.12, 2023.
We’ll now go deeper into that surge to see who was most engaged.
Gas stoves: sentiment and passion
We first looked at sentiment to examine how people were feeling about the ban. Negativity jumped from 53% of all online posts on gas stoves to 93% after the study was released. Additionally, during that same window, the Infegy Passion score (how intense people are when discussing a topic) jumped from 45% to 100%. The negativity can be explained by the nature of the topic: childhood asthma is a quite serious topic with heavy repercussions. However, we had to dive deeper into the data to understand the high degree of passion fueling the negativity of the conversation.
Gas stoves: emotions
To understand the passionate negativity, we turned to Infegy Atlas’ emotions analysis. This revealed some surprising insights: the dominant emotion in the conversation shifted from Trust (earlier in the conversation) to Anger and Anticipation. The earlier portion of the conversation reflected responses to the scientific study produced by reputable researchers (hence, Trust was expressed in 32% of the posts). However, as the news about a potential ban emerged, Trust dropped and Anger and Anticipation grew. This not only indicates a new audience joining the discussion, but expressions of anger and foreboding are typically accompanied with the markers that point to greater passion and intensity – hence the high passion score we noted above.
More proof using Narratives
To corroborate the emotional transition from Trust to Anger, we turned to Infegy Atlas Narratives. Infegy Narratives clusters related documents, and then produces summary statistics for each cluster. The “Biden administration’s potential ban” was the largest cluster, but only had a 5.9% positivity rating. On the other hand, the “childhood asthma” cluster, which specifically mentioned scientific research, had a much higher overall positivity rating at 43%. This suggests that people participating in the political conversation were much more likely to be negative than people responding to the study.
Who is angry about gas stoves?
To find out what fueled the anger expressed in the posts, we turned to a linguistic analysis of the source bios of people participating in the conversation. A word cloud of identifiers people chose for themselves reflects a heavy preponderance of terms such as “Conservative,” “Patriot,” “MAGA,” and “Freedom.” This tells us that people who talked most frequently about gas stoves tended to be vocal conservatives who would be severely averse to a governmental ban.
More proof using Entities
Infegy Atlas entity-recognition further corroborates the political leanings of the people posting about gas stoves. Democrat politicians who showed us as top entities in the conversation (like Joe Biden) only had an 8% positivity rating, while Republican politicians like Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, had a 94% positivity rating.
Who’s not talking about this?
Surprisingly, cooks or people interested in cooking appeared to be completely absent from the discussions online. We used Infegy Atlas’ Interests tab to look at what else social media users who posted about gas stoves were likely to post about. Food or cooking-related interests didn’t appear in the top ten categories that people were likely to post about. Instead, people focused more on political topics like elections and crime.
With the Biden administration considering a ban on future sales of gas stoves, post volume around these ordinary kitchen appliances surged across social media. However, we found that the nature of the discussion online experienced a shift from health concerns to partisan bickering. The data suggests that conservative social media users were more likely to engage in negative discussions about the potential ban, while those discussing the scientific research had a higher positivity rating.
Additionally, cooks or people interested in cooking were not found to be involved in the discussion much at all.