Social Media’s Cultural Impact: Tracking Live Debate Sentiment

Zuzanna Pasierbinska-Wilson

If you believe the hype, tonight’s U.S. Presidential debate is either a crucial tie-breaker that will determine the outcome of the elections or it will have absolutely no impact on voting day. No matter what the outcome or how the candidates perform, you can be sure that social media will be buzzing with reactions and new memes just like after the last three debates–and analyzing those reactions will provide an endless amount of information.

To demonstrate, following last Tuesday’s debate our data science team ran some further analysis on the Twitter data that we collected for the Debate Social Pulse website and pulled together the following:

Sentiment by Candidate

When analyzing the overall sentiment of Tweets, the DataSift data science team found that Mitt Romney appears to be the more controversial candidate. There were significantly more emotional comments, both positive and negative, referring to Mr. Romney than to President Obama.

Sentiment by candidate

Swing State Sentiment

Overall, the average sentiment of comments from the key swing states, as well as nationwide, is negative. In each state, the overall sentiment was more negative about Mr. Romney than President Obama.

Sentiment by Swing State

Sentiment on Issues

This bar chart shows the average sentiment of posts about individual issues per candidate. Both candidates received generally negative Tweets about jobs-related and immigration issues. The biggest sentiment swing is between the negative sentiment on the economy for President Obama and a positive swing for him on Taxes.

Sentiment by Issue

Tune in Tonight!

If you’re a data geek like me, the charts are fascinating and seem to reflect the daily survey data about how both Mr. Romney and President Obama are doing in the polls. It’s even more fascinating to watch the fluctuations and analysis in real time, so be sure to use our Debates Social Pulse tonight as you watch. The DataSift team, along with our CEO, Rob Bailey, will be live Tweeting what we learn at #dsdebates so we’d love to hear from you.

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