Guest Post: More debate analysis from Twitter

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.