Most Tweeted Debate in History and Yet Least Understood


Trump or Clinton?

Donald or Hillary?

I apologize to my friends outside the United States for leading with the existential question we here are faced with...Real Consequence Reality TV. However, I would argue, strongly, that we are yet another microcosm in the MACROCOSM that is a world struggling to understand the true impact of digital and data beyond the texts we send, the pictures we post, the stuff we buy and the video we binge.

I have written before about the pathetic track record of "professional" polls and pollsters. Their "red-faced" admissions to getting it wrong for a myriad of reasons. Nothing new, I have pointed out, as there are historical precedents long before digital and big data became the buzz words du jour.

However, what I find particularly distressing about the current situation, in the US, is what seems to be a complete disregard for what has been happening around the world and even here in the primaries leading up to this election to the point that it's hard to take any predictions seriously. It makes me wonder not who will get elected but what the consequences of anyone being elected will be.

The place to begin is last week's live debate, viewed by millions around the world between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and clearly the key question is as in all debates that is the point, no? - WHO WON?

This isn't a political blog, and my view doesn't count here, so let's turn to a variety of sources to see if we can get an answer to a very binary question - Clinton or Trump?

The headlines state:

"Donald Trump lost the debate on social media" -- VICE

"Donald Trump dominates Twitter mentions, with 60% of attention" -- CNBC

"A win for Hillary Clinton. The first presidential debate" -- The Economist

"Hillary Clinton Won the Debate by Every Metric" -- New York Magazine

"Online votes declare Trump debate winner, despite media consensus for Clinton" -- Fox News

"No, Donald Trump Didn't Win Post-Debate Polls" -- NPR


Let's explore a little more:

In the days following the debate, USA TODAY reported, "Who won the debate? Social media and 'The Cyber'":

Twitter spokesman Nick Pacilio called it the "most tweeted debate ever."

Twitter said the three-most tweeted moments were Trump's vow he has "good temperament," his comments on stop-and-frisk police actions, and an exchange between the combatants on their plans to defeat ISIS.

And if Nick is right, let's look deeper, as covered by CNBC:

Twitter mentioned Donald Trump nearly two times for every time Hillary Clinton was mentioned by the end of the debate...

The measure includes the number of people tweeting about either candidate's names or Twitter handles. @realDonaldTrump got 62 percent of the mentions, compared to @HillaryClinton's 38 percent.

So...the most tweeted debate ever and Donald dominated. Clearly we will not be able to agree on who won by share of voice alone so let's look at the polls...BIG DATA, if you will:

If polls only included media pundits, Hillary Clinton would have won Monday's debate by a landslide, but online surveys had Donald Trump as the huge winner.

The Drudge Report online vote had 80 percent of respondents giving the victory to Trump, and a survey had the Republican nominee leading Clinton by 4 percentage points - 52 percent to 48 percent - after more than 1,300,000 votes were cast. CNBC and Breitbart votes also had Trump winning the event, at New York's Hofstra University.

A Fox News online vote had Trump winning with 50 percent of respondents, Clinton at 35 percent and the other 15 percent declaring no one won.

The online surveys are not scientific and, in many cases, supporters of either candidate can cast multiple ballots. Still, the disconnect in judging Trump's performance was reminiscent of the Republican Party primary, when pundits often said his competitors bested him while online polls put him on top.

Now we know Fox News has a Trump skew...some would say bias...and as my readers know, I am passionate about reading all the sources I can find on all sides of any story, so let's balance Fox with The New York Times, a source more compassionate to Hillary:

On this same issue of online polls, The New York Times reported: Why You Shouldn't Trust 'Polls' Conducted Online:

On Tuesday, Donald J. Trump boasted of what he described as widespread approval of his performance in the first presidential debate with Hillary Clinton.

While it looked good for Mr. Trump, pollsters and some journalists offered a protest: Informal, unscientific "polls" on news sites produce junk data that does not indicate how the public actually feels, and should not be believed as an indication of -- well, much of anything.

Professional pollsters use scientific statistical methods to make sure that their small random samples are demographically appropriate to indicate how larger groups of people think. Online polls do nothing of the sort, and are not random, allowing anyone who finds the poll to vote. They are thus open to manipulation from those who would want to stuff the ballot box. Users on Reddit and 4chan directed masses of people to vote for Mr. Trump in the instant-analysis surveys, according to The Daily Dot. Similar efforts were observed on Twitter and other sites...

Experts say the online votes are a good gauge of enthusiasm, which could mean Trump's performance was enough to energize those who already backed him.

While it looked good for Mr. Trump, pollsters and some journalists offered a protest: Informal, unscientific "polls" on news sites produce junk data that does not indicate how the public actually feels, and should not be believed as an indication of -- well, much of anything.

Which is it dear readers?

Junk Data? Or "a good gauge of enthusiasm"?

I'd argue strongly that the answer resonates well beyond politics and impacts much more than an election. And, I'd further point out that while pollsters and some journalists protested as I mentioned at the start, their record is abysmal, no better than the so called unscientific.

Bottom line...we are once again using tech as a substitute for what people are actually saying and thinking.

We obsess about numbers of tweets and volume of likes and we pay little attention to emotion and feeling.

I am concerned we are losing touch and if Brexit didn't convince you...who knows...listen:

It's not opinion polls that determine the outcome of elections, it's votes in ballot boxes. -- Nicola Sturgeon

Sadly, in a world of data driven everything, the two have been in conflict way too long and the prospects are, frankly, concerning.

What do you think?

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