VP Debate 2012: Why The Tie?

Last Thursday night, Vice President Joe Biden and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan met onstage at Centre College in Danville, KY for the Vice Presidential debate, and the question everyone wants to know the answer to is, “who won?”

While several national polls have called the debate a “tie,” Crimson Hexagon’s analysis shows that the VP candidates both “won” in different ways. Ryan won for style; Biden won for substance. Here’s what we found:

In CNN’s poll of registered voters, 48 percent of respondents named Ryan the victor, while 44 percent chose Biden. With a 5 percent margin of error, however, this poll could indicate a tie, rather than a clear win for one side. In addition, as of this writing, an unscientific poll on CNBC’s website has the results tied at 47 percent for a “win” for either candidate, with 5 percent saying neither won.

Inconclusive results aren’t terribly exciting in a political campaign, but by analyzing over 6 million opinions during the night of the debate and the following day, Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight™ platform uncovered some fascinating nuances in the conversation.

28 percent of the conversation related to the debate notes how well (or poorly) the candidates performed; this has to do with the “style” of their debate performance. Unsurprisingly, Biden’s grins are a hot topic. While it’s not uncommon for Biden to demonstrate his strong personality at public events, 15 percent of the debate conversation thought the Vice President should have wiped the smirk from his face. Meanwhile, another 13 percent thought Ryan performed admirably, and “held his own” against an aggressive Biden.

At the same time, 34 percent of debate commentary on the social network discussed the substance of the debate. While 24 percent of the conversation contended that Biden espoused truthful and thoughtful arguments, 10 percent called Paul Ryan a liar.

An HLN article yesterday predicted the debate would boil down to “style and substance,” and the story ForSight has uncovered seems to suggest this prediction was correct. The 29 percent of conversation about the candidates’ debating styles praise Ryan and criticize Biden, while the 35 percent about the substance of candidates’ discourse praise Biden and criticize Ryan. In other words, it appears the Twitter conversation says Ryan won the style competition, while Biden won the substance. While Twitter is not necessarily indicative of the national sentiment, it appears that this ForSight analysis might be able to explain why viewers declared the Vice Presidential debate a tie. Who do you think won the debate?

Let us know in the comments below!

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