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GOP Presidential Hopefuls – Do Debates Matter?

December 2, 2011

At Topsy Labs, we like to take conversations found on Twitter and use math to extract information from mounds of data, and in this case – historical tweets about GOP Presidential hopefuls.  We processed all tweets mentioning GOP candidate’s names from January 1st of this year through October 27th (that’s a lot of tweets) to understand how the GOP debates impact sentiment and the volume of conversation around each candidate. It came as no surprise to us that the debates and what happened during them had a direct correlation to the volume of mentions on Twitter. But what was really fascinating was the degree to which hiccups or strong performances really could propel a candidate one way or another in terms of their Share of Voice (SOV). Our SOV analysis shows the share of mentions for each candidate relative to the total mentions for all candidates being analyzed.

We visually depict results within graphs like the one below so anomalies, trends and relationships with real-word events can be identified over time.

The graph above shows the SOV of the top three GOP candidates (Perry, Cain, and Romney) in relation to each other over a ten month period (Jan 1 to Oct 27).  Over this extensive time frame it’s hard not to notice the upward trend that Rick Perry took, culminating in his August 13th candidacy announcement.  During this time period there were numerous other events that took place from candidates slipping on historical dates, individuals throwing their hat in the ring or taking it out, and also eight GOP debates. It is these debates that we focus on in much greater detail in our Political White Paper: How GOP Debates Impact Sentiment & Conversations Around Candidates that is available here.

An interesting debate that occurred after our white paper was released and one that had sound bites played over and over again on TV and all over the internet was on November 9th. It was during this debate that Rick Perry, now famously, was unable to answer what three Federal Agencies he would eliminate if he was President. As it turns out the agency he couldn’t remember was the Department of Energy, but what is really interesting is looking at how much his share of voice increased as a result of this debate as well as the degree to which his sentiment score (how favorable people view him) decreased.  He was already trending slightly down, but this downturn was much steeper than our previous analysis showed.

The chart above clearly shows Perry’s downturn starting with the 11/9 debate. Romney, who was thought to have a fairly strong debate according to pundits, was more or less in line (plus or minus half a point) and Cain used this opportunity to showcase himself as a serious contender even as the sexual abuse allegations continued to swirl around him. Given what had been going on with Cain, this gaffe by Perry, however, couldn’t have come at a better time. Perry took much of the SOV away from Cain as depicted in the graph below.

This is a small portion of the analysis we performed over the ten month period and we are just getting started. With a number of debates behind us and another 14 scheduled through the middle of March and as primary season gets underway we will have to wait and see what unfolds and which candidate will emerge to take on President Obama in the general election. Be sure to check back here for a continuation of our in-depth analysis of the GOP Debates, the candidates, and how the 2012 Presidential Election cycle is taking shape before our very eyes on Twitter.

Posted by barry