Millions of online posts and messages referencing last night's Presidential debates show a different impact from what's being reported by political writers covering the campaign, according to the guy who sorts social media data for Newtown Square-based SAP America, the business-software giant.
"The mainstream media message was that Romney did a very good job establishing hismelf, better than in the past. But what we're seeing in social media is that people remained unswayed," Craig Downing, director of marketing at SAP''s Palo Alto, Calif., research office told me.
"I don't think the debates had a huge impact swaying the net conversation," Downing said -- though he also noted that people who take the time to post may already be more partisan than other voters.
SAP measured "traffic and sentiments across Facebook, Twitter, microblogging services, media sources and comments on media sources, Fox, CNN," Downing said. Posts referencing Philadelphia were generally more pro-Obama than the national trend. Here, "Romney had as many detractors as supporters; Obama had a lot more supporters than detractors."
Especially on the West Coast, both campaigns have Twitter and Facebook strategies, Downing said. "They sacrifice control; people in social media aren't just recipients of the message, they are active in the conversation."
Overall, "throughout the day, Romney had 2.1 million mentions, as opposed to 1.6 million for Obama. Volumes peaked during the live debate with Romney far outweighing Obama in mentions," 1.1 million to 600,000.
"During the debate, the negative sentiment towards Romney far outweighed the positive, whereas Obama had more positive sentiment."
Out in the real world, Romney backers took comfort from their candidate's more-coherent performance. US Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Bucks, who's locked in another tight fight over that swing seat in Congress, told me he's seen very few yard signs so far in this election -- "but my office got a whole lot of calls today" volunteering to help, after Romney's credible debate appearance.
"I'm very pleased," said Ralph Badmann, a retired contractor in Southampton, who's looking for either candidate to promise a road-bridge-infrastructure repair campaign to make more work for builders like his son. Badmann, a Republican, sees Franklin D. Roosevelt's Depression-era public-works projects as a model. Based on last night's performance, he sees Romney as the man more likely "to find a way" to fund more public spending.
More from SAP: "From the positive ‘likes’ and keywords, trending around Romney was that he would ‘win debate’ (47.6%%). Other positive sentiments included his ‘hair’ (9%) and ‘do well’ (6.6%), while negative ‘dislikes’ included ‘rude’ (20.6%), ‘kill debate’ (11.5%) and ‘promise to cut help’ (10.2%)
"Positive ‘likes’ and keywords associated with Obama included ‘right choice’ (18%) ‘win the debate’ (16.4%) and ‘best president’ (8.7%), while negative ‘dislikes’ included ‘loose debate’ (30.1%), ‘kill it’ (18.6%) and ‘nervous’ (7.6%)"