by Shirley Santiago, October 14, 2016
For United States citizens, presidential elections are fairly routine events. After all, they happen with great regularity, every 4 years. But even so, no two elections are the same. The amount of intrigue and suspense generated can vary considerably from election to election.
And this election is anything but routine.
Ask any longtime political observer when last an election occurred that was as divisive and segmenting as this one, and they likely won’t have an answer for you. It may be the most contentious election in modern American history, with a large percentage of each candidate’s base regarding the opposing candidate as an avoid-at-all-costs evil.
So it’s no surprise that people have had plenty to say about this election on social media.
In an earlier post, I told you about the results of our RCG Global Services Team voter sentiment analysis of the Philippine presidential election. We analyzed voter sentiment on Twitter following both the presidential and vice presidential debates.
As it turned out our analysis was very predictive of the election results.
So we’ve applied much the same techniques and methodologies in analyzing voter sentiment after the first U.S. Presidential debate, held on September 26.
Leading Up to the Debate…
We analyzed Twitter feeds collected shortly before the debate.
Coming into the first debate, Trump’s positive sentiments very slightly exceeded Clinton’s. But Trump’s negative sentiments also exceeded Clinton’s. Trump also edged out Clinton as the most mentioned candidate on Twitter.
Hours Immediately Following the Debate…
We wanted to know about the public’s first reactions to the debate. So we collected and analyzed Tweets during and after the debates.
What were the immediate impacts of the debates? Though Trump had slightly edged past Clinton in positive sentiment leading up to the first debate, there was a dramatic turnaround in the hours immediately following. Clinton took a lead in positive sentiment. Trump’s negative sentiment declined somewhat, while Clinton’s negatives trended downward substantially. Both candidates held nearly identical neutral ratings.
Interestingly, Trump built upon his pre-debate lead as the most mentioned candidate on Twitter. But though more people were Tweeting about him, the sentiment analysis indicates that many were not talking about Trump in a positive light!
Days After the Debate…
The immediate post-debate reaction is certainly of interest; it’s good to know about voters’ instant gut-reaction to the debate.
But perhaps more telling is voters’ sentiment after they’ve had time to mull over the results, and crystallize their thoughts and perceptions about the debate. For this analysis we collected Tweets posted during a period of several days after the event, from September 26 to October 2.
While Trump still held a lead as the most mentioned candidate, his positives and negatives changed very little. Clinton’s positives declined somewhat, and her negatives rose.
Post-Debate Polling Supports Our Analysis
Nobody knows how this election will turn out (though you can find plenty of people that will tell you that they know!). And we’re certainly not predicting the results of this election.
But it is quite interesting that our analysis of the first presidential debate voter sentiment has been echoed in numerous polls throughout the nation.
A CNN poll, for example, reported that a substantial majority of viewers felt that Clinton won the first debate. A Fox News poll reported a nice post-debate bump (and lead) for Clinton. Many additional polls conducted since the debate have reflected similar results.
Voter sentiment based upon a single debate does not necessarily predict the outcome of the race. Recall that the majority of voters felt that Mitt Romney had won the first presidential debate in 2012. The final outcome of that election, of course, was decidedly different.
The Significance of Sentiment
Whether you’re a politician or a brand, the public’s sentiment about you is of tremendous importance.
A current snapshot of public sentiment tells you what they think about you, about your brand or your product. That sentiment may be a predictor of future actions. But more importantly, it can clue you in on the actions you should take to shape future sentiment.
Cloud-based Big Data and social media outlets like Twitter provide more raw data than ever before about what people think of you. All you have to do is listen. And analyze.
Give it a try – here are the results of the Twitter sentiments we captured before, during and after the second debate. What do you see?
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