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COMMENTARY: Singh scores win with ‘sentiment’ jump on Twitter during debate, Ipsos says

Leaders' Debate Wrap: Jagmeet Singh stands out in the pack

The 2019 English-language debate is now in the rearview mirror, and while it will take a few days before we know how the leaders’ performance will affect voter intentions, Ipsos got an immediate read on how Twitter saw the debate.

The Canadian Political Atlas Debate Dashboard is a tool developed by Ipsos to measure sentiment and volume on Twitter regarding party leaders, parties and issues. And it painted a fairly clear picture of what Canadians on Twitter thought.

READ MORE: Sparks fly over climate change, environment in federal leaders’ debate

The first thing that was clear was that Canadians were tuning in to the debates and tweeting about it. Before the debates started, #elxn43 and associated hashtags were garnering roughly 60 mentions per minute. This increased to a peak of more than 300 during the debates, a fivefold increase. This number also doesn’t include the Canadians who were simply using Twitter media as an active listening tool.

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As might be expected, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer dominated the Twitter discussion. Volume was highest for Trudeau, who had close to 35,000 total mentions. Scheer was second with just over 31,000. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier were third and fourth, while Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet were the least mentioned.

Overall, in fact, Bernier attracted much more commentary than his party’s poll performance would have suggested. However, not all of it was positive sentiment.

READ MORE: Bernier challenged over ‘extreme multiculturalism’ tweet during leaders’ debate

Sentiment measures attitudes towards the parties and leaders. A sentiment rating over 50 is “net positive,” while a sentiment rating of less than 50 is “net negative.”

Only Singh ended the night in net-positive territory. Although he was only third in terms of total volume, he started the night with a sentiment rating of 62 and increased it to 68 by the end of the night, staying consistently high during the debate and topping out at 70 at one point.

By contrast, Trudeau’s net sentiment dropped to 40 from 55. Scheer’s net sentiment also dropped, starting at 48 and falling to 42. Singh was the clear winner in terms of Twitter users improving their view of him as the debate went on.

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The most talked-about issues on Twitter were energy and the environment, which made up 24 per cent of the conversation, while social issues and affordability garnered 21 per cent. When topics such as Indigenous issues were discussed, there was a noticeable increase in conversation on Twitter, but it dropped quickly as other issues moved to the fore.

Twitter — and social media in general — is only a glimpse into the views of electors. They are not representative measures of the population, and we will need to wait to see how the debate affects public opinion. 

But the Political Atlas tool offers a glimpse into what Twitter users are thinking. If it is any indication, the debate helped introduce Singh to Canadians, while both Trudeau and Scheer lost a bit of positive sentiment.

Leaders’ Debate: A crowded stage meant fewer moments to stand out
Leaders’ Debate: A crowded stage meant fewer moments to stand out

Bernier managed to “punch through” and get his party attention on Twitter, while May and Blanchet were notably absent from most Twitter conversations.

As the campaign enters its final length, Ipsos will continue to use the Political Atlas to track Canadians’ attitudes and engagement online leading up to the vote on Oct. 21.

These are findings from the Canadian Political Atlas Debate Dashboard, an online social media monitoring tool that measured Twitter sentiment and volume through the debate. The data are not representative of the Canadian population, and reflect only social media activity online. Data was collected between 7:00 p.m. and 9 p.m. Oct. 7, 2019.

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Gregory Jack is vice-president of Ipsos Public Affairs.

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