In a curious coda to Mitt Romney’s universally acclaimed victory in a presidential debate that sparked more tweets than any political event in U.S. history, the GOP candidate saw his Twitter Political Index score plummet by 14 points.
The index goes through millions of tweets each day, sorting candidate mentions for positive or negative sentiment, to arrive at a daily score reflecting the aggregate opinion of the Twitterati.
The drop in Romney’s score following the debate was his biggest one-day fall in over a month, and his second biggest since early May.
The dramatic plunge can’t be explained as simply a fall-off in glowing debate-night tweets the next day, since the index is compiled and updated every night at 8 p.m. So Romney’s Oct. 4 score included all of the record-breaking 10 million tweets generated by his spirited performance the night before.
The demographics of Twitter’s user base skew toward traditionally Democratic constituencies, which may be part of the explanation — after all, Obama has more than eight times as many followers than Romney. But a closer look at the debate tweets suggests a more complicated answer. Mediabistro’s AllTwitter site points to a “Commander-in-Tweet” infographic compiled by Ignite Social Media breaking down the deluge of tweets during the Oct. 3 debate.
The numbers show that while the Democratic side accounted for nearly three-quarters of mentions, the favorable/unfavorable breakdown between the two sides was nearly identical. Also, the most retweeted commentator during the debate was pro-Romney conservative Michelle Malkin. So it appears that most of the negative tweets lobbed at Romney came in the aftermath of the debate, which was marked by heavy fact-checking of many of Romney’s claims by the likes of @factcheckdotorg, and jabs at his vow to downsize Big Bird from an explosion of parody accounts like @FiredBigBird.