A year after we worked with big data analytics company ICG Solutions to see how the contestants were faring in the primary debates, the process started again with the Sept. 26 debate between the two candidates for president of the United States, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
As in the past, we measured the sentiment as expressed by users on social media while the debates were in progress, and during the hours immediately after the debates we studied a social media sentiment analysis provided QSocialNow, a consumer trend analyst company based in Argentina that uses a somewhat different approach.
In addition, we confirmed the accuracy of the social media measurements by comparing them with a set of polls taken by Politico and Morning Consult, two Washington, D.C., news organizations that have begun publishing fast-turnaround polls.
What's important on the highest possible level is that all three measures agreed that Clinton came out on top of Trump in Sept. 26 debate.
One significant difference between the three measurements is that while both the QSocialNow social media sentiment analysis and the Morning Consult/Politico polls report the outcome of the debates as a moment in time, the ICG big data analysis tool, LUX2016 tracks the event over time during the debates as well as reporting the overall outcome. LUX was able to show the changes in sentiment as debate played out.
"What we noticed is that during the first 30 minutes of the debate we had a hard time seeing any real sentiment gap between the two candidates," said Louis Lyons, chief operating officer of ICG Solutions.
Lyons said that the measurements using LUX2016 revealed that the volume of social media activity from backers of both sides in the debates was approximately the same—which was not the case in the primary debates a year ago, when Trump was far ahead in social media engagement.
Lyons said that after the first 30 minutes of the debate, Clinton began to pull ahead of Trump in positive voter sentiment. "We felt that it was a pretty even match in the first 30 minutes, but then it went in her direction across parties, genders and ages," Lyons said.
He noted that the personal attacks by one candidate against the other had little if any effect on the overall sentiment, although the more Trump attacked Clinton, the more his positive sentiment among voters declined.
Lyons also said that the results revealed a positive voter response when the debates went back to covering issues and moved away from personal attacks.
The results from QSocialNow were less specific, but that's because the data was sampled differently. Pam Baker, author of "Data Divination: Big Data Strategies," who was my co-presenter for a presentation on big data analysis at a recent Excellence in Journalism conference along with Lyons, explained what was going on.