There was no Election 2012 debate last week, but social media behaved as if there had been one. What could possibly have the same effect as those widely watched debates?
Hurricane Sandy, that’s what. Even before it slammed into the East Coast, the super-storm was reshaping the election conversation, putting a greater emphasis on Policy.
As we’ve shown in our previous Three P’s posts, all the debates (three presidential and one vice presidential) bumped Politics - the so-called “horse race” - down among the three topics contending for dominance.
The presidential debates were such substantial conversations, each drove Policy to the top of the list (in the first debate, the Policy spike happened after a two-day delay, as we explained in our post). The vice-presidential contest produced a spike for Personality, due to high-volume commentary about Joe Biden’s debating style and behavioral tics.
As the graph shows, in all four cases, the shift was clear but temporary. Eventually, after a few days, Politics resumed its dominance.
As Sandy was approaching the East Coast of the U.S., there was a burst of tweets about its possible election implications. Many commenters speculated about the possibility that the storm would be politicized. These remarks were classified under Politics by the analytic tools that help us track the Three P’s.
But once Sandy hit, Obama’s response to it, along with discussion of Romney’s positions on crisis management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, drove a spike in Policy that you can see on the graph. That Policy spike peaked the day after the storm and then began to decline.
Almost inevitably, as Election Day approached, chatter about polls and swing states began to grow. This is reflected in the rise of the Politics line at the far right end of the graph.
Now, as Americans prepare to cast their votes and the mainstream media focus again on the race itself, will Politics resume the top spot? After the votes are in, we’ll take another look and report back.