Social Media Analysis Shows Clinton Beat Trump in Presidential Debate

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2016-09-28 Print this article Print
Big Data Debate 2

"The one analysis (QSocialNow) appears to be of sentiment alone (meaning it doesn't appear to be pegged to defining specifics such as demographics, political party affiliation, likely voters, etc.), so it is more of an indication of Twitter user feelings during the event than of a read on voter segment sentiment. Think of it like a big data-fueled mood ring," Baker explained in an email.

"The Lux2016 analysis is more sophisticated and more meaningful as it offers a breakdown by political affiliation (such as independents, GOP moderates, conservatives, etc.) and demographics (such as women) as well as trend tracking and gap spread measurements. There are more specific insights here, even though it is still a sentiment analysis," Baker explained.

Baker also noted there are limitations to the insights that social media sentiment analysis can provide. "These early glimpses often correlate with the findings of more scientific and broader polls done later—but not always. Still, measuring public mood during a debate can and often is useful, not the least of which for politicians trying to hone their election pitches, ads or debate performances."

In this case, the social media sentiment analysis did track closely with the polls, which reported 49 percent of respondents saying Clinton was the winner while 26 percent giving the debate to Trump.

So, the measurements all indicate that Democrat Hillary Clinton was the winner of the presidential debates on Monday. But what does that mean? Mostly it means that Clinton had a good night.

The measurements may also tell both candidates (if they're paying attention at all) that the negative attacks on each other didn't work in changing voter sentiment, but that discussions of policy did work. Perhaps this could mean that we'll see more discussions about issues, although it's doubtful we'll see a significant reduction in personal attacks.

But on the broader question of what the sentiment analysis of the first presidential debate means for the results of the general election in November, the answer is, it may not mean much. There are two more presidential and one vice presidential debates yet to come and anything can happen at those events. And of many other political developments and "October surprises" can have a profound effect on the election results.

If you're asking yourself whether all of this big data analysis on the mood and sentiment of the people viewing televised debates means anything, it's good to reflect on something that Baker told me while we discussed the results.

"The point is you can't equate social media analysis with scientific polling and research. They are not interchangeable. Social media analysis is limited to self-reporting," she said. "There is data, and there is knowledge," Baker added, "They're not necessarily the same thing."


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