Social media analysis: Love him or hate him, vice presidential debate was all about Biden

Updated
Social media analysis: Love him or hate him, vice presidential debate was all about Biden
Social media analysis: Love him or hate him, vice presidential debate was all about Biden
Crimson Hexagon Inc. and NBC Politics

Social media commentary was fairly closely divided on who did better in Thursday night’s vice presidential debate, according to NBC Politics’ computer-assisted analysis of more than half a million Twitter and Facebook posts during and after the debate — and people’s opinions either way largely came down to what they thought about Joe Biden’s hyperkinetic performance.

Analysis through noon ET Friday suggested that a plurality of commenters thought Biden did better than Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin:

That works out to a 53 percent to 47 percent edge for Biden among commenters who expressed clear opinion.

(NBC Politics analyzed 517,000 posts using a tool called ForSight, a data platform developed by Crimson Hexagon Inc., which many research and business organizations have adopted to gauge public opinion in new media. It isn’t the same as a traditional survey, which seeks to reflect national opinion; instead, it’s a broad, non-predictive snapshot of what’s being said by Americans who follow politics and are active on Facebook, Twitter or both at a particular moment in time, and why they’re saying it.)

More social media analysis from NBC Politics

Explainer: Can you scientifically quantify social media opinion?

Generally speaking, pro-Biden comment was straightforward: He did better than Ryan, and he may have helped to make up some of the ground President Barack Obama was perceived to have lost in his debate last week with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney:

Social media analysis: Love him or hate him, vice presidential debate was all about BidenSocial media analysis: Love him or hate him, vice presidential debate was all about Biden

But pro-Ryan commentary was very different. Even people who thought he did better were likely to characterize their opinions in reaction to Biden, rather than highlight what impressed them about Ryan — much of whose favorable sentiment was expressed as annoyance at the vice president.

Biden plays aggressor in debate as Ryan argues GOP case

A representation of key words in comments that said Ryan did better illustrates the degree to which his performance was defined in relation to Biden’s. Notice that the word “Biden” is fully as prominent as the word “Ryan”:

Social media analysis: Love him or hate him, vice presidential debate was all about Biden

In sharp contrast, “Ryan” shows up far less prominently in the reciprocal visualization of key words in comments that said Biden did better (it’s nestled in the middle of the cluster on the left of the image):

Social media analysis: Love him or hate him, vice presidential debate was all about Biden

A different visualization gives a better idea of why pro-Ryan commenters were pro-Ryan: They found Biden’s interruptions and exasperated reactions — captured in split-screen throughout the 90 minutes of the televised debate — to be rude and condescending:

Social media analysis: Love him or hate him, vice presidential debate was all about BidenSocial media analysis: Love him or hate him, vice presidential debate was all about BidenSocial media analysis: Love him or hate him, vice presidential debate was all about Biden

PhotoBlog: Joe Biden’s laughing creates a lot of debate after the vice presidential debate

Almost as widely discussed a figure was the moderator, Martha Raddatz of ABC News, who was either tough and fair or in the tank for Biden, depending upon who you thought did better:

Social media analysis: Love him or hate him, vice presidential debate was all about BidenSocial media analysis: Love him or hate him, vice presidential debate was all about BidenSocial media analysis: Love him or hate him, vice presidential debate was all about BidenSocial media analysis: Love him or hate him, vice presidential debate was all about Biden

The question remaining to be answered is whether the debate will have made any substantial difference. Many commenters remarked that while they thought one man or the other did better, the debate was unlikely to sway Election Day preferences — a sentiment that was best summed up in this observation:

Social media analysis: Love him or hate him, vice presidential debate was all about Biden

Paul Ryan and Joe Biden

Social media analysis: Love him or hate him, vice presidential debate was all about Biden

Updated