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Debate 3: A social media timeline

Rory Cellan-Jones | 23:20 UK time, Thursday, 29 April 2010

LEX_Sentiment.jpg

It's debate time again, and I'm poised with my laptop in front of the television to follow social-media reaction to the debate. We know that online, as elsewhere, this has been a difficult 24 hours for Gordon Brown. Yesterday, he plunged to a record low on one "sentiment tracker", measuring online comments about the leaders. But there has been a wave of sympathy for the Labour leader among some online commentators.

Already tweeters are limbering up - I enjoyed this:

Hopefully one of the anecdotes will start with "i met a bigot in Rochdale"

Let's see how it goes.

2030
As we get under way, people around the world seem to be watching. One organisation, which is encouraging UK voters to donate their votes to people in developing countries, tells me it is streaming the debate to Ghana. Another tweeter tells me she is watching in : "xi'an, China (if the broadband holds up to streaming, otherwise it's just via twitter comments...)"

Right from the start, Twitter is in overdrive, with more than 3,000 tweets during David Cameron's opening statement.

2040
After the opening statements Tweetminster's sentiment tracker - which tries to measure positive and negative tweets - puts Nick Clegg in the lead.

The Lexalytics tracker puts Clegg and Cameron neck and neck with Gordon Brown lagging behind.

2045
Not everyone is taking this quite seriously - here's one tweet: "Leader's debate drinking game. "Let's be clear". "What I want to say is this". "Let me respond". 1 shot each."

2050
Over on Facebook's live debate page the comments are coming thick and fast. But the language on the social network is a lot less restrained than on Twitter - the first comment I spot is unprintable, the second an attack on immigrant questioners.

2055
In the last 10 minutes Nick Clegg has surged ahead on the Lexalytics tracker. He is also doing well on the BBC "worm", which gives the instant reactions of a panel of viewers.

2100
Party spindoctors hard at work. Here's Douglas Alexander for Labour: "Tories started by suggesting they could cut their way to recovery. Now they're trying to spend their way to victory. It just doesn't add up"

Eric Pickles for the Conservatives: "Brown claims he brought down the basic rate of income tax. But he doubled income tax for the poorest workers."

And Paul Burstow, a Liberal Democrat: "Nick Clegg right to say no bonuses for Bank directors and no cash bonus and no bonuses for loss making banks."

2110
A cluster of Conservative tweeters think they've spotted a Clegg U-turn on the euro - here's press officer Henry Macrory:
"Clegg: 'I'm not advocating entry into euro.' LD manifesto: 'It is in Britain's long-term interest to be part of euro.' "

2115
Angry Lib Dems post a link to their manifesto to show there has been no U-turn.

In the last 10 minutes Gordon Brown took the lead on the Twitter sentiment tracker.

2130
The volume of tweets has now exceeded 100,000. But who's winning? One man is bemused: "Starting to lose faith in #leadersdebate live polls - Times has Dave on 53%, C4 has Dave on 16%"

But enthusiasm for the question on housing - the first in any of the debates. But are these the people with the answers, asks one person: "three men with multiple homes expressing sympathy for hard working woman unable to afford family house".

2135
Tweetminster tells us: "51.7 tweets per second is the highest peak of all three #leadersdebate - it was 41.05 in the first, 33.18 during the second".

Facebook's Rate the debate app is working fine - but it's still very hard to work out what it means, unless you can remember who was speaking at 2137.

Meanwhile celebrity tweeter Stephen Fry has popped up: "Something on TV is there? Curses for being abroad. Who's winning? Dott or Selby? I love snooker. Or is something else on of interest?"

2140
The occasional comment is popping up about Fulham and Liverpool - are some people watching another channel?

LEX_Volume.jpg

2145
Are the professional political animals losing focus? Conservative Tim Montgomerie posts an amusing picture grabbed from the TV, while Labour blogger Sunny Hundal gives us a shot of the scrum in the spinroom.

2150
Tory spin doctor Henry Macrory says the betting market tells us that David Cameron is the winner of the debate. Tweetminster has Clegg ahead on sentiment.

As the closing statements begin Chris Addison, who played a hapless civil servant in political satire the Thick of It, tells us: "I'd give my vote to whomever started their closing statement, "I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower blooms."

Sadly, nobody obliges.

2200
The Lexalytics tracker of Twitter sentiment shows Nick Clegg and David Cameron ending up close together, with Gordon Brown in third.

Tweetminster has some final stats: 154,342 tweets from 33,095 tweeters. That's up on last week, but lower than during the first debate.

It looks like the Twitterverse got a little weary as the debate entered its last half hour.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Re 2100 - Eric Pickles for Labour? Not sure he'll be too happy about that one.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    'C4 has Dave on 16%'

    I think you'll find they're polling their own staff.

  • Comment number 4.

    Thank God one of the anecdotes did not start with "i met a bigot in Rochdale". How would Gordon Brown inject this comment into a debate that was supposed to centre on economics?
    Not everyone is taking this election seriously, and that’s been the problem, hasn’t it? Twitterers have a grand-ole time when the future of the UK is under debate. Don’t they get it? This is serious stuff!

    Here's Douglas Alexander for Labour: "Tories started by suggesting they could cut their way to recovery. Now they're trying to spend their way to victory. It just doesn't add up" He’s right of course, but how many will notice?

    Eric Pickles for the Conservatives: "Brown claims he brought down the basic rate of income tax. But he doubled income tax for the poorest workers." Yes, but that bail-out something with which I never supported. I always felt (and many times said) – let the financial buggers wallow in their own soup.

    And Paul Burstow, a Liberal Democrat: "Nick Clegg right to say no bonuses for Bank directors and no cash bonus and no bonuses for loss making banks." Personally, I find this a bit extreme (not for banks with losses), but for banks with legitimate profits. Banking reforms should cap bonues for profitable banks at a certain percentage up to “X” amount.

    In the last 10 minutes Gordon Brown took the lead on the Twitter sentiment tracker. I’m stunned. Why didn’t you tell uis what he said?

    It looks like the Twitterverse got a little weary as the debate entered its last half hour.
    Twitter is not a long-lasting, focused sort of activity. The word is related to twitching.

  • Comment number 5.

    I don't think you can take Twitter statistics (Twattistics?) all that seriously.

    Many of the comments I saw, mine included (twiter.com/scotbot) were purely for entertain purposes.

    I may not, however, be Rory Bremner when it comes to political satire, but I do reserve the right to make pithy comments and poke fun at Our Dear Leaders when the time arises, just as many other Tweeters also do.

    Twitter does not make for serious political discourse.

  • Comment number 6.

    I loved the tweetminster's sentiment tracker..

    Definitely surprised that the language is milder on facebook although fb has a reputation for dumping groups and pages with many obviously unmoderated comments so that probably explains it!

  • Comment number 7.

    I like the colours in your graph Rory but I have no idea how to interpret it! How about a key explaining the scales (well, just the y axis on it)?

    @scotbot - definitely agree with you but I do believe the twitter analysis is a great view of public sentiment on the candidates which is what sentiment tracking is about.. don't think it's been introduced as formal political discourse but rather as a feel for what's happening on the ground.

  • Comment number 8.

    leaders are just trying to win the debates on tv or internet.devid camron is confused on lots of issuse like economic recovery and tax cuts.his party manifesto is to cut funds for public institutions like Police, NHS or ect.public already spend money on bailout of banks. if they will cut our public sector funds to cover the deficit by risking public sector.he is just trying to score points on immigration issues without working on real facts.panic over massive immigrents. no one have any plans to take the advantage of these immigrents open trade and open boarders of europe.gorden browns is making his poistion very strong in my eyes he have plan for ecomomic recovery and handling immigrents and envoirment issues.he shows himself very responsible last year of resession by making lot of efforts to save banking system.

 

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