The Third Republican Debate: During and After

October 28, 2015  ·   Report

We want to better understand how people of differing ideological backgrounds, specifically Republicans and Democrats, respond within and to political discussions.

Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Chris Christie at a 2016 Republican primary debate.

Credit: Walt Disney Television


In real time, social media activity offers a window into how interested viewers, as well as subsets of those viewers, react to political debates. During a fluid primary season for the Republican Party ahead of the presidential nomination in 2016, sources of information, like polling data, may fail to gauge subtle shifts in voter attention. While viewers tweeting about a debate are not fully representative of the population, they do give us a window into the thoughts and feelings of those who most actively follow American politics. The public tweets reveal a mix of which topics and candidates are getting attention.

To study this, we combine contextual information with a collection of over 400,000 tweets (containing a related hashtag) posted during the third GOP debate and measure a sender’s ideology. Then, we begin to measure how different groups, specifically Republicans and Democrats, respond to events and whether what they’re doing is supportive or critical.