Sponsored Content | 14th April 2015

How social media reacted to the leaders’ debate

The women shone, Farage was Farage, and Miliband and Cameron could not be separated.

Photo: (Photo by ITV via Getty Images)

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It was the women wot won it. Having been previously disregarded by much of the media as small fry, the female leaders really showed their worth during the recent leaders’ debate. And “the debate about the debate” across social media gave us a clue as to how much the public enjoyed it.

While some 7.7 million people watched the debate on television, Twitter revealed that it facilitated around 1.5 million tweets at a rate of 8,657 per minute.

Out of these, Nicola Sturgeon appeared to do particularly well, with her “formidable performance” gaining her an additional 15,000 new Twitter followers. Meanwhile, the SNP has been the third most talked about party with 21% of political chatter, and an impressive 35% of all these tweets have been positive (compared to 18% negative), according to ElectUK, an app which is monitoring Twitter conversations in the run up to the general election.

Her female counterparts experienced similar success. The profile of the Greens’ Natalie Bennett shot up from virtually nothing to around 9,000 positive tweets and 5,000 negative at the time of the debate, while Plaid Cymru trended in the top five parties for the first time on the day after the debate, in part thanks to Leanne Wood telling Farage he “should be ashamed” of himself.

Indeed, Farage’s decision to complain about foreigners with HIV taking advantage of the NHS created a big spike in social media activity. His intervention has made UKIP the most talked about political party since the debate, although as some 32% of comments about him were unfavourable, he will be hoping there no such thing as bad publicity.

This moment also contributed to a social media success for Ed Miliband, who responded with a tweet that generated over 10,000 retweets and has been the top ranked “viral tweet” since the debate on ElectUK. He wrote: “I want to say, Nigel Farage’s comment about the NHS and HIV was disgusting. He should be ashamed. The fact he isn’t says so much.”

In terms of the battle to become prime minister, Miliband continues to find himself neck and neck with Cameron. Across the four public opinion polls released on the day, they each managed an average of 22% of people thinking they were the “winner” of the debate. This deadlock is also reflected on social media, with ElectUK recording that the pair have been the subject of 18% and 17% of Twitter chatter respectively since the big day. The Labour leader is also only inches ahead in terms of the tone of these tweets, with 24% of tweets about him recorded as positive and 27% recorded as negative, compared to Cameron’s 21% and 30% respectively.

All that said and done, what Twitter is so often best at is humour and cynicism, and the response of the leaders’ debate was no exception. In a programme that was described a bit dull, overlong and in need of more advertising breaks, Twitter pondered whether the set looked more like a game show than a political debate, whether an audience romance was about to end before it had even begun, and whether the BBC was committed to sign language impartiality.

However, it was once again Miliband who claimed gold in the viral stakes, after a Twitter user pointed out that he had apparently quoted the grime artist Skepta during the debate. This prompted a six-second Vine that has since been looped more than 660,000 times, and begs the question – if the Labour leader was to rap his party’s manifesto, would this break the election deadlock?

Designed, built and delivered by Tata Consultancy Services, ElectUK turns your smartphone into an advanced social media analytics tool, giving you the ability to identify and share online trends around the upcoming election.

The app is free to download and is available on both iOS and Android devices. Just search for ‘ElectUK’ in the Apple Appstore or Google Play Store.

Visit www.tcs.com/ElectUK for more information or follow @ElectUK on Twitter for all the latest updates from the app.

Please note: the ElectUK app is analysing the data and helping to identify trends in online conversations around the election, it is not promoting or criticising any party or political view.