A new tool was applied to social media following the presidential debate, and it showed that public sentiment was Obama won on substance, whereas Romney appeared to win by lying. The ability of social media to spread the word about fact-checks has changed the game.
NBC used a tool called ForSight, used to gauge public opinion in new media, to conclude that by Friday there was a sustained social media backlash against the punditry calling the Denver presidential debate for Romney. The new meme was that if Romney “won”, he did so by lying, whereas Obama had won on substance.
The immediate consensus that Mitt Romney won Wednesday’s presidential debate has eroded significantly as fact-checkers have weighed in and supporters of President Barack Obama have fought back, according to NBCPolitics’ computer-assisted analysis of more than 1.3 million post-debate comments on social media.
The analysis suggests that as debate over a news event continues unmediated over time, the impact of the conventional wisdom of journalists and partisan commentators can be mitigated…
By Friday morning, the counterargument that Obama had actually won on substance had taken root, with online sentiment now favoring the president.
I am not presenting these revelations to argue that Obama won the debate. It was established by the media that Romney won the debate, even if this study — based upon the post mortem fact-checking that damaged Romney’s “win” — says otherwise. Romney has also gotten a small bounce in post debate polls so far among undecideds.
However, to the point of the social media backlash, the debate bounce is not a shift in the electorate precisely for the reasons people were citing on social media; the public does not find Romney trustworthy or presidential. According to numbers from a Reuters/Ipsos survey released Saturday, the bounce is not a shift in the electorate, but a short term bounce. “We haven’t seen additional gains from Romney. This suggests to me that this is more of a bounce than a permanent shift,” Ipsos pollster Julia Clark concluded.
Furthermore, Obama gained ground post debate on matters of character and who understands the electorate more, even among voters who thought Romney “won” the debate. Obama is still more liked than Romney (53-29), and he still has a slim overall lead over Romney. Voters feel Obama has right values needed for a President by 43 to 37. Ironically given the narrative that came out of Denver’s debate, Obama still leads 42-38 on who is “tough” enough to be President.
So, Romney “won” the debate but did nothing he needed to do in order to present himself as more presidential. Worse, our media gave a debate to the person who by all fact-checkers’ accounts, lied his way through the entire debate to such an astonishing degree that there were times we did not know who was standing on that stage. This was not the Mitt Romney who has been campaigning for the past six years. Mitt Romney “won” by disavowing himself of Mitt Romney. How is that a real “win”? Perhaps he won the debate only to lose himself.
Not bothered in the least by Romney stabbing Republican ideology in the back in order to present himself as Obama lite during Denver’s debate, the Romney camp were out with champagne and snarls the day after the debate — high on their first “win” in a long and rather embarrassing campaign season for them. Republicans took to the airwaves to gloat like frat boys, demonstrating the very reason why they should not be in charge of anything. Ambition happily sacrificed principles in the Romney camp.
If this is “winning”, then we need to redefine the purpose of these debates. Ostensibly, they exist to inform the people. How exactly did Mitt Romney inform the people of his policy positions so that they were better equipped to vote their conscience? He misled them, if anything, and he seemed to only confirm voters’ already dim opinions of his character. The media dropped the ball on this one, including the allegedly liberal media.
Things are so bad in our corporate media that we were told a liar won a debate for the Presidency because the other guy didn’t hit him back hard enough. These folks are paid for their ability to see past the trees, even if they are the right height, and focus on more than political theater.
The debate is supposed to be about who is best suited to be President, not about who won the WWE show, unless the media is conceding that our presidential debates are nothing but entertainment not subject to rules. The Denver debate and the post debate coverage was an unmitigated fail.
Just like the trolled Town Halls of 2010, the media got punked by manic hysteria and distortions meant to distract from the very issues at hand. The media did nothing to clear the air. But citizens took to social media to point through the crazed haze, revealing the little man behind the curtain of lies.
Romney won the debate, but failed to achieve what should have been his biggest goals; to change public perception of him and to come off as presidential.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.