Total Pageviews

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On Twitter and Google, Signs of Less Interest in the Final Presidential Debate

All the president's horses and all the president's men could not get Twitter users to break a record again during last night's final debate. Even if they had been carrying bayonets.

Twitter users wrote approximately 6.5 million posts during Monday night's debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The number was about a million less than the second debate. It represented a further cooling of activity tied to political events, after more than 10.3 million posts were published during the first debate, which set a record.

It's difficult to know what caused the slow down in activity on the social networking service. Maybe Twitter was the second screen for Monday Night Football fans. Or perhaps many potential debate viewers were glued to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. Or, just maybe it was fatigue after three previous debates and a presidential election that has gone on for a very long time.

While t he debate may have been generally less interesting to users on Twitter, one moment did cause a flurry of activity: President Obama's wisecrack that the American military has “fewer horses and bayonets.” That remark coincided with a rate of more than 105,000 posts written per minute. In this case, the moment in the debate that went viral also generated the most activity, a contrast to the “Big Bird” and “binders full of women” moments in the previous debates, which lingered despite registering less activity as they were spoken.

The impact of the “horses and bayonets” statement was felt well beyond Twitter. Google reported that the phrase was the top rising search on its search engine between 9 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. Eastern time. Other searches that were common during the debate were “Syria,” “Mali, “drones” and “tumult.”

But the rising search that was most interesting was one that was absent from Google's Top 5: “Who is winning the de bate?” That question was the top rising search during the second debate, and also popular during the first debate. This time around, it would appear that it was a question that far fewer people were interested in answering.