Election 2012

Social media and TV audiences show big reaction to presidential debate

Social media and TV audiences show big reaction to presidential debate

Social media website Twitter, where users communicate with brief 140-character messages, reports that Wednesday night’s presidential debate was “the most Tweeted-about event in U.S. political history, topping the numbers from the RNC and DNC.”  The latter is a reference to the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, which created very heavy traffic on Twitter.

But last night’s debate topped everything that came before it.  Ten million messages were sent during the evening, with the largest traffic spike coming after “Moderator Jim Lehrer quips ‘Let’s not’ when Governor Romney requests a topic.”  From an issues standpoint, the discussion of Medicare and vouchers created the most Twitter traffic.  The mention of Big Bird, after Mitt Romney talked about cutting PBS subsidies, produced a tidal wave of humorous Tweets and parody accounts, and Big Bird for President ended up with 5,000 “likes” on his Facebook page.

That’s several times the Twitter traffic of all the 2008 debates combined.  Of course, Twitter is a lot bigger now, so the growth of the twittering population would have to be taken into account.

As for the television audience, the UK Daily Mail estimates it at 60 million people, which the paper characterizes as “on the high end of a typical debate headcount.”  It apparently didn’t quite match the most-viewed event from the 2008 campaign season, which was the vice-presidential debate featuring Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.  That had an audience of 69.9 million viewers.  The networks probably need a little more time to compute a final audience size for Wednesday night’s debate, however.

CBS News and CNN both ran instant polls after the debate, and both showed decisive victories for Mitt Romney.  CBS’s poll showed Romney declared the winner by 46 percent of respondents, versus 22 percent for Obama.  CNN’s was an even more astonishing blowout: Romney 67, Obama 25.  CNN says Romney’s score was the best they’ve ever recorded in an instant poll after a debate.

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