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Debate Night 2: How it unfolded online

Rory Cellan-Jones | 22:03 UK time, Thursday, 22 April 2010

It's Thursday night, so it must be time for another prime-ministerial debate. Last week was the biggest moment for the campaign so far - and Nick Clegg's emergence as the winner could be spotted first on social media. So I'm tracking online response to tonight's debate in Bristol. Here's how it went.

As it got underway, the #nickcleggsfault hashtag was still trending. Which got the smart computer scientists trying to analyse the language used about the leaders in a terrible pickle, because their systems failed to pick up the irony and measured all those tweets as negative.

2000 As the debate gets underway, the furious tweeting begins - mostly about the leaders' choice of tie.

Meanwhile on Facebook, their Rate the Debate app is up and running again. But it's hard to read what users are actually saying.

And the "worm" measuring the reactions of a panel of voters is also in operation on the BBC News website.

2010 We're into the first question, on Europe, and the Twitter sentiment tracker has them level pegging. There have been 6,731 tweets around the #leadersdebate hashtag thus far, according to Tweetminster, which tracks these things. Frequency of tweets is now at 20.5 tweets per second.

In a reference to last week's debate catchphrase, one tweeter asks: "Has Gordon decided he actually DOESN'T agree with Nick?" as the debate around Europe gets heated.

2020 The tweeting accelerates to more than 30 per second. One tweet: "Camerons PR team have definitely said look into the camera more! Will it work?"

On Facebook one user says: "They are trying too hard to look like they know 'the people.'"

2025 We're now onto Trident, the nuclear deterrent. "I agree with Gordon," says David Cameron. Will that trend on Twitter? During that question all three leaders moved into positive territory on our sentiment tracker.

2030 As we discuss going green, one new theme emerging is the phrase "Get real". It's been uttered by at least two of the leaders. One tweeter is demanding a "Get Real Gordon Brown" t-shirt.

But the rate of tweeting has dropped back - do I get the sense that the green issue is not energising everyone?

2040 The question about the Pope's visit produces little in the way of discord - and not everyone is impressed: "Yuck. Cosy consensus. They've all computed the size of the Catholic vote," says one online viewer.

Meanwhile some appear distracted by the attractions of the Slapometer, where you get the chance to vote with the palm of your hand.

2055 Gordon Brown's "women - and you're one of them" line to an elderly questioner is greeted with some amusement.

Meanwhile, I'm afraid the live audience reaction "worm" on the BBC website appears to have curled up and died.

2100 The Conservatives are out in force on Twitter, claiming that Gordon Brown has just committed a gaffe over leaflets accusing the party of threatening benefits for the elderly. Here's shadow cabinet member Jeremy Hunt: "Gordon Brown just made biggest gaffe of campaign but denying responsibility for Labour leaflets."

2110 For the first time this evening, our Twitter sentiment tracker shows Nick Clegg moving into the lead - he's in positive territory, while the other two are negative. Mind you, another sentiment tracker from Tweetminster puts them all neck-and-neck.

Meanwhile The Straight Choice, a site which tracks election leaflets, is appealing for anyone who received those controversial Labour pamphlets on eye tests and free bus passes to get in touch.

2120 As we draw towards a close, all the party spin-doctors are punching away online, with attacks on each other, and even links to new posters.

2130 Final figures from Tweetminster show there were 142,795 tweets during the debate. That's more than 41,000 fewer than last week. So a lower level of engagement and a sense that people tired earlier than they did during the first debate.


Our sentiment tracker - for what it's worth - shows Nick Clegg very marginally ahead, but essentially it looks like a draw.


  • Comment number 1.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 2.

    Mr Cameron looked completely horrified throughout the whole thing. Although I would be if I had to deliver the insubstantial drivel that he does live in front of x million people.

  • Comment number 3.

    This election thing is probably just boring everyone to death now. The parties have been campaigning for months and all seem to be as bad as each other. Can we have another volcano please?

  • Comment number 4.

    I would like to see Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole give their verdicts at the next debate before it goes to the final vote.

  • Comment number 5.

    Careful when you vote based on change. We in the USA went from a change in 2000 from the Dems to the Republicans, and you can see what good that did.

  • Comment number 6.

    I was in the packed pub last night, and SKY was on the TV... SKY sports. And in a free WiFi zone, I saw no one with a lappy (not being in London there seems less Blackberry or iPhone obsession on display in these parts - maybe there is more in our physical surrounds worth enjoying).

    Hence it seems odd how much how relatively few, most certainly partisan views from a relatively niche medium get boosted to main story status on, for instance, the national morning broadcast news.

    It is a phenomenon in certain quarters to be sure. Why, whether deserved, with what motivations and how that impacts opinion are perhaps questions that may be worth asking at least in complement to what 'the results' from this minor social, and socially-skewed ('Oi, Alfie, put down that brick and check out my new Nick trending app on me 'iPhone') networking site are.

  • Comment number 7.

    The biggest shock in all this is that when Rory was on BBC breakfast this morning he wasnt surgically attached to his iPhone like he normally is and he even appeared to be using a Windows based Laptop! The shock was too much at that time of the morning!

  • Comment number 8.

    Bring on Labours next term :)

  • Comment number 9.

    I was following @Dav1dCameron, kept me sufficiantly entertained.

  • Comment number 10.

    Hence it seems odd how much how relatively few, most certainly partisan views from a relatively niche medium get boosted to main story status on, for instance, the national morning broadcast news.



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