Debate fatigue: 6.5M tweets posted during final debate

Steven Loeb · October 23, 2012 · Short URL:

Big Bird, binders, bayonets are hot across social media

Does anyone else feel like these debates have been going on forever? I know there were only four of them but, I swear, I don’t think I could have taken another one.

Thankfully, after three sparring matches between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, and one between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, we have, at long last, come to end of debate season. I, for one, am perfectly happy to wait another four years to sit through another one of these things. Hopefully, then we will have two better candidates than we have now.

Of course, whenever we start talking about the debate, we invariably turn to Twitter to see what we should be talking about. So let’s get to it.

Last night’s third, and final debate, was the least Tweeted of those between Obama and Romney, drawing in 6.5 million Tweets, according to Twitter. Last week’s debate saw 7.2 million Tweets, and neither came close to the record breaking first debate, which saw 10.3 million tweets.

All three, though, beat the vice presidential debate, which only brought in 3.5 million tweets. We may be a divided nation right now, but there is probably one thing we all agree on: we don’t really care what the vice president has to say.

Big Bird, binders and bayonettes

There was a really weird trend this year, one that I will never be able to explain: for the third debate in a row, Twitter was abuzz with a “B” word.

In the first debate the trending term was “Big Bird” which resulted in 17,000 tweets per minute, after Romney said he would cut funding for PBS. Then, in the second debate it was “binders,” a reference to Mitt Romney’s now infamous “binders full of women” quote, which resulted in a slew of Internet memes.

And then last night, Obama, in a tone that sounded like he was lecturing a schoolboy, said this to Romney:

"You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go under water, nuclear submarines.”

The moment saw 105,767 tweets per minute, and, as you probably expected, “bayonets” got its own Twitter page.

There was another “B” word that also got people talking last night, after Obama chastised Romney that, “"The question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting ships.”

That prompted tweets like this one from former presidential candidate John Kerry:

The other big moments of the night included when moderator Bob Schieffer said, "I think we all love teachers,” generating  102,339 TPM.

Then there was Romney blasting Obama for his "apology tour,” which resulted in 87,040 TPM.

Given that last night was meant to focus on foreign policy, though both candidates found plenty of excuses to get off the subject, it’s not surprising that more than 50% of the conversation on Twitter had to do with the topic.

Foreign policy made up 54% of the conversation, easily trumping the economy, of which made up only 20%. Terrorism, which actually has to do with foreign policy, was 9%, taxes was 7% and only 4% of the conversation revolved around energy and the environment (sorry to all you tree huggers out there.)

Here is how the debate played out in real time:

(Image source:

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