Data: How YouTube’s Dislike Count Removal Could Ding Video Engagement

Data: How YouTube’s Dislike Count Removal
Variety Intelligence Platform

In this article

  • In an exclusive survey, certain YouTube users agreed that the dislike count removal makes them less likely to engage with videos on the platform
  • Issues with the dislike count removal appear to be more concentrated among heavier YouTube users, rather than casual ones
  • Adding public dislike counts as a perk to YouTube Premium likely wouldn't greatly boost the appeal of that subscription product

YouTube’s controversial move to remove public dislike counts in November was aimed at shielding smaller creators from harassment campaigns but has already started to discourage certain viewers from engaging with videos on the platform, new data suggests. 

YouGov Direct fielded a survey on Jan. 4 on behalf of Variety Intelligence Platform among 1,013 online U.S. adults, 270 of whom said they use YouTube and noticed the dislike count removal.  

Over 40% of these 270 respondents agreed that the removal of dislike counts made them “much less” or “slightly less” likely to watch YouTube videos. 

That percentage was still smaller than that of the group who said the lack of dislike counts didn’t affect their viewership of YouTube videos. But that doesn’t negate the fact that there is still a sizable group of respondents suggesting the dislike count removal has made viewing YouTube videos less attractive to them. And this should worry Google as other free ad-supported streaming alternatives rise and invest in original content en masse.  

YouTube also needs to consider how the removal of the dislike count has impacted other types of video engagement.  

45% of survey respondents who use YouTube and noticed the dislike count removal said the change made them “much less” or “slightly less” likely to engage with (via comment, like or dislike) the platform’s videos. That was slightly higher than the 43% of respondents who indicated that the dislike count removal made no difference to their commenting, liking or disliking in regard to YouTube videos.  

It’s true that when gauging the reaction to the dislike count removal among those who’ve not yet seen the change on the platform themselves, the data appears less concerning.  

Over 68% of respondents who said they used YouTube and had not yet noticed the platform’s dislike count removal agreed knowing about the change makes no difference to how they watch, comment on, like or dislike videos.  

But this doesn’t totally discount the data presented at the beginning of this article because YouTube should be prioritizing pleasing those who spend the most time on its platform, many of which are likely to be the ones who’ve already noticed that dislike counts are now gone.  

Moreover, it’s possible that some of the respondents who suggested that they wouldn’t be bothered by YouTube’s dislike count removal find that they feel differently about the change once they experience not seeing public dislike counts firsthand. 

It seems true that any portion of YouTube’s users starting to like and comment on videos less frequently is bad for the Google-owned video platform because comments and likes surely help smaller creators — the very group that was intended to be helped with the dislike count removal — get boosted in YouTube’s algorithm and gain exposure. 

Yes, bigger creators also benefit from comments and likes. But you could argue that many bigger YouTube creators are more likely to have bigger reaches on other social platforms and might generally be less financially vulnerable to not being promoted by YouTube’s algorithm than smaller creators. 

The negative reactions to YouTube’s dislike count removal is not surprising. VIP+ back in December said it seemed already possible that the dislike count removal caused at least some consumers to use YouTube less often, and predicted that the video platform in 2022 will make hidden dislike counts optional on videos in a bid to ratchet up engagement. 

And the percentage of consumers noting displeasure with YouTube’s dislike could increase in the coming months. Only 34% of the 974 U.S. adult YouTube users surveyed by YouGov Direct said they noticed the Google-owned platform’s dislike count removal. 

There is a free plug-in that consumers can download to restore public dislike counts on videos, but there could be many current YouTube users that don’t know that this third-party extension exists. 

But it’s probably not worth YouTube’s time to try to and monetize demand for this third-party dislike plug-in via its subscription offering YouTube Premium. 

YouGov Direct found that just 4% of surveyed YouTube users who don’t currently subscribe to YouTube Premium said that the Google-owned platform’s $14.99/month subscription offering (which offers perks like background video play on mobile and access to YouTube Music) would become more attractive to them if public dislike counts was one of its perks.