Northeastern University

Guest Post: More debate analysis from Twitter

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Photo by don relyea via Flickr.

Debate season is an exciting time for professor David Lazer’s lab, and I’m delighted to be able to bring you more analysis from their team.

This time, research assistant professor Yu-Ru Lin explains what their Twitter-meter had to say about Tuesday night’s presidential debate. Together with Drew Margolin, Lin led a team from the Lazer lab in tracking the night’s twitter activity.

They looked at Tweets by heavily followed “elite” Twitter accounts with known political leanings or media affiliations, as well as “average Joe” tweeters, allowing them to tease apart the results with more precision than in the previous two debates.


In the second presidential debate, the winning index was not much for drama but revealed a consistent consensus.

Both the average Joes and the elites showed consistent reactions throughout the debate indicating that that round 2 was different from the first debate.  Amongst average Joes, Democrats gave Obama a slight edge, but both Republicans and watchers of both conventions gave Obama an even larger advantage throughout the debate, perhaps previewing the disappointment many felt with Romney.  Elite Tweeters incorporated similar views but stuck more closely to expected form.  Democrats favored Obama strongly, Republicans favored Romney weakly, and neutral media professionals stayed between the two for the duration of the debate.

As in the prior debates, the tweets of the presumably neutral average Joes and media professionals, which consistently favored Obama, appeared to be the harbinger of what was to come.

Things got more interesting when the debate ended.  Shortly following the conclusion of the debate, Republican elite Tweeters show a sharp move to announce a Romney victory.  They were not joined by any other groups, however.  Over the next half hour, each of the other 5 groups, including the “average” Republicans,” moved to declare Obama the winner.  In fact, these “average” Republicans made one of the strongest moves toward Obama during the post-debate period.

Hours after the debate, the trend was still apparent, with Obama’s Winning Index score continuing rise among Democratic elites, average Democrats, media professionals, average bipartisan tweeters, and even average Republicans.  Meanwhile Republican elites continued to Tweet the opposite view.

The sentiment scoreboard, which tracks the affect of words used in tweets about the candidates, showed a similar pattern.

Check out the recap for the debates.


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