Nothing Like the Sound of Autumn Leaves Crunching While Political Pots are Boiling

Many people are waking up these days with sore throats and runny noses from the temperature switch, but luckily social media participation isn’t dependent on either body part being in optimal shape. For those feeling a fever coming on, it’s probably from the Election Day bug, arriving in 20 days.

Tuesday night was the second presidential debate, held in Hempstead, New York. Taking the candidates away from behind the podium and placing them in town hall format, face to face with voters, gave them the opportunity to speak to the dozens of the undecided voters in the room, but also granted the tens of millions who watched an experience as close to a fire-side chat as you can get in 2012.

The town hall format provides a level of unpredictability and since the campaign trail isn’t televised city by city and state by state to the national audience, it provides room for the public to see how candidates interact with everyday people.  Since the candidates were not given advance notice of the questions, they had to come armed with a solid style, tactic and messages they wanted to get across to the American people. Political strategists agree that this is the most challenging debate format. Aggression may win over compassion behind a podium at a standard debate, but to succeed in town halls, a fair balance of both needs to be portrayed. The undecided want specifics in the answers to their questions, but they also want to leave the experience feeling encouraged and hopeful.

Questions from the audience touched on  many issues including unemployment nationwide and underemployment among college grads, inequality in the workplace, energy independence, immigration reform, Libya, gun control, to name just a few. Some viewers felt that the candidates spent too much time on their attacks. Some felt impatient listening to the offense when they just wanted answers. The candidates were clearly not speaking to die-hard fans. They were speaking to people who aren’t particularly fond of either and need to choose whose goals and values identify closest with theirs before November 6th. Tuesday night’s debate provided the prime opportunity to close the rotating gap in favorability and likely votes.

The CNN|ORC International poll conducted right after the debate showed a slight edge for President Obama, with 46% of the post-debate winning vote and 39% for Romney. Nearly three quarters of debate watchers felt that the president performed better than they expected; only 37% said the same for Romney. The survey also found that Obama led 47%-41% on likeability, but on the key issue of the economy, Romney showed an 18 point lead. 49% found Romney to be a stronger leader, while Obama led with 44% saying he cared more about the audience members and their questions.

CNN’s Candy Crowley, the first woman in 20 years to moderate a presidential debate, landed 53% negative sentiment on her role based on our analysis of social chatter.  While this isn’t as high as the negativity sentiment surrounding Jim Lehrer on the first debate night, it was much lower than the positivity Martha Raddatz received from the veep debate last week. While she received praise for her firmness, negative comments seem to surround feelings of her being slanted in her control over the candidates, particularly her interjection to provide the on the spot fact check on Romney’s response to the Libyan question.  It seems most people heard her initial correction, but not the follow-up comment to Romney indicating where he was correct.

ORC’s Social Buzz data found that Romney had a higher positive sentiment, 48% than Obama, 44%, in online conversations on Monday, the day before the showdown. Both candidates gained positivity after the debate (opposite to the pattern found after the first debate), and it was virtually neck and neck with Romney at 50% positive and Obama at 49%.

People largely felt it was a strong comeback for Obama after his first performance; his aggression and interaction with the audience was applauded, while Romney’s ability to showcase his leadership style and emphasis on being well versed in matters of economic recovery granted him favor.

Unlike both previous debates, neither candidate held dominance over conversations online. Around 8PM conversations were slightly higher about Obama, by 9PM, higher about Romney, but the hours after that showed equal verbal bustling for both candidates. 

The candidates will meet for their third and final debate on Monday in Florida. There’s no telling who will come out on top, but there’s no doubt Tweeters, Facebookers, Commentators, Bloggers and the like are sitting impatiently to find out.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: Politics, Social Listening

Author:Tameka Vasquez

Tameka is the Marketing Communications Coordinator at ORC International. ORC International is a leading global market research firm. We specialize in research related to Customer Equity, Employee Engagement, Business & Market Expansion and Product Development & Innovation. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

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