Big Data

Final Trump-Clinton debate: Social media data analysis reveals voters are over it

Though online interest in the presidential election has never been higher, social media sentiment about the candidates is in the basement.

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Image: Getty Images

This story was originally published on CNET.

Here's what social media tells us about the final presidential debate: We're sick of politics.

Analysis of social media data pulled before, during, and after Wednesday night's showdown between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas yielded dismal, if predictable, results. Neither candidate inspires the electorate, at least in the social media landscape.

But Trump inspired voters least, according to Brandwatch, a company that analyzes social media activity.

The real estate mogul generated negative sentiment in 62.4 percent of his Twitter mentions, Brandwatch said. Clinton, meantime, generated positive sentiment 53.8 percent of the time.

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Image: OpenText

Clinton's performance with social media users marked a milestone in what has proved to be an ugly election campaign; the social media response was the first time either candidate generated positive sentiment in any of the debates.

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Brandwatch analyst Kellan Terry said an exchange of one-liners hurt Trump and helped Clinton. Trump called Clinton "such a nasty woman," while Clinton called Trump a puppet of Russia.

In an exchange on immigration, Trump said, "We have some bad hombres here," generating both tweets and memes.

"Clinton's balance of substance and reactive statements to Trump's responses was a clear formula for her positive conversation," Terry said.

Social media sentiment, which broadly refers to how viewers respond to the debate, was negative in the first two debates, with both candidates receiving nearly 60 percent negative sentiment, Brandwatch said.

The third debate, however, was tamer, allowing Clinton to generate positive overall sentiment, said William Stodden, a political science professor at North Dakota State College of Science and Concordia College in Minnesota. He said the second debate was particularly unpleasant.

"This [debate] was a lot more similar to the first debate," Stodden said."But it was a great spectacle."

Despite generating negative sentiment, Trump commanded social media.

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Image: Brandwatch

Moments after the debate Trump grabbed 59% of the overall Twitter conversation to Clinton's 41%, according to internal Twitter data shared from its @Gov account.

Clinton's Twitter handle, however, added more followers during the debate, gaining 13,000 followers, more than double @realDonaldTrump's 6,000 new followers. The most-Tweeted policy issues in order of importance to viewers were foreign affairs, the economy, abortion rights, terrorism, and immigration.

Clinton attacked Trump on his treatment of women, generating the the most Tweeted moment of the night.

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Social media user sentiment has tracked negative for both candidates in the week prior to the debate, according to the Election Tracker, a social media monitoring microsite developed by enterprise information management company OpenText. The Election Tracker pulls data and contrasts Twitter data related to how social media users feel about campaign issues.

Positive social sentiment about both candidates was low. Positive sentiment toward Clinton stood at just 15.19% positive association on Twitter, while Trump got just 10.3%.

Still, over 15 million people discussed the debate, according to Affinio, a data analysis platform that uses info from Twitter's API. The company examined social media user interest patterns during and after the debate. Using firehose access to the Twitter API, the firm scraped posts in real-time, then diagrammed correlations between users and content. The analysis takes into account fast-moving content, the interconnectivity of content and users, psychographics, demographics, and geographic location.

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Twitter said the top social moments Wednesday were Trump and Clinton discussing the treatment of women, Trump's refusal to say whether he would accept the election results, Russia, nuclear weapons, and Clinton calling Trump a Russian "puppet."

The most retweeted exchange was Trump saying "I'll keep you in suspense" when he refused to say if he would accept the election results in three weeks' time, according to Spredfast. Clinton called his response "Horrifying."

Not too far behind was a scathing Tweet from former Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders calling Trump the "least qualified" candidate, which had a combined 36,000 retweets and likes.

While many are happy the debates are over, Stodden isn't, playing off on the trending #DebateHangover hashtag.

"I've had a great time on this bender," he said. "But the hangover gets here on November 9th, and it will stick with us for four years."

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About Dan Patterson

Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.

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