Biden, Ryan Debate Evaluated in Real-Time

Blow by blow, reaction to the vice presidential debate was polled in real-time using a new app that students used to agree or disagree with comments, or call "dodge" and "spin."

by / October 15, 2012
Image from Shutterstock

Joe Biden edged out Paul Ryan during the vice presidential debate on Oct. 11, according to a new poll -- of about 1,500 students in real-time using a smartphone app developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis; the University of Maryland, College Park; and the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. The trio formed React Labs to support research and analysis, and foster a  greater sense of engagement between people and the events they’re watching, particularly in the political process.

As the debate progressed, students clicked buttons that said “agree” or “disagree,” and “dodge” or “spin” to indicate how they felt about what the a speaker was saying.

"It's thrilling to see students engage with the debate in real time, said Amber Boydstun, an assistant professor of political science at UC Davis who co-created the app, reported. "It's clear from their responses that they have strong opinions about the candidates in both directions and that they know when the candidates are spinning an issue or dodging a question."

Biden mostly received “agree” clicks, while Ryan received an even number of “agree” and “disagree” clicks. Overall, Biden won the debate amongst the college students polled, with about 60 percent giving the debate to Biden. Perhaps more interesting, however, is how students reacted to various moments throughout the debate.

When Ryan talked about tax policy, “dodge” clicks suddenly spiked. Most students disagreed with Ryan's abortion policy, but agreed with his closing argument. Biden's comments on Iran were mostly met with disagreement, but his commentary on Romney's “47 percent” comment was mostly agreed upon.

Slightly more than half of those polled were male. More than 60 percent said they were white, with 13 percent claiming to be Hispanic, 9 percent black, and 9 percent Asian. A detailed slideshow of results is available at the React Labs website.

Polling using the app will continue through the two remaining presidential debates.