Hi I’m Gilad

I love data, analysis and visualization. Chief data scientist at betaworks.

What Can Social Media Teach Us About the Presidential Debates

Earlier this week I was invited to participate in Bloomberg TV’s Market Makers to talk about data from last week’s presidential debate. The segment was shot the following morning after the debate. Even with such short notice, we managed to show a few interesting views of the data:

1. Even though Romney is said to have won the debate, when you look at social data, #Obama2012 appears much more prominent and central. This might be happening because there are more users on Twitter rooting for Obama. Or perhaps this reflects a much more organized campaign, using a single hashtag for all of their communications.

2. We can clearly identify two different topic spaces amongst the Republicans – one is Romney’s campaign, and the other, Tea Party / #tcot. The conversation around Romney is much more fragmented than the conversation around Obama.

3. We identified three dominant clusters of users from Ohio discussing the debates. There was a clear political cluster, a media cluster, and surprisingly, a dominant cluster of users from Ohio State University.

Video of the interview along with graphs are embedded below:

Some more information about the graphs:

First, I highlighted a simple graph showing the different curves that represent each of the prominent debate hashtags. Obviously #debates was substantially larger compared to #Obama2012, #Romney2012 and even #BigBird. That said, the fact that the other hashtags didn’t spike as much, doesn’t mean they were not dominant within the discussion online.

Next I presented a network graph that maps out prominent hashtags and user mentions during the first presidential debate. It is clustered by modularity, which means that hashtags/user mentions that appeared together in higher than usual levels, will be under the same color.

Here’s a zoomed in version:

And here’s #bigbird / #pbs:

The next graph maps out the friend/follow relationships between a segment of users who were discussing the #debates on Twitter. In this case, we see users from Ohio, or those affiliated with Ohio, and how they’re interconnected. Again, the graph is clustered by modularity, where three distinct clusters emerge.

The first (yellow, top right), seems to be politicos from Ohio, including @JohnKasich (governor), @johnboehner (Ohio congressional rep and speaker of the house) and @robportman (Ohio senator). The second (purple, middle right) are Twitter handles that represent local media in Cleveland and across Ohio such as @clevelanddotcom and @WEWS. While the third dominant cluster (green, bottom right) users from Ohio State University who formed a significant part of Ohio-ans discussing the debate.

Leave a Reply