Social media shows political muscle during first presidential debate

10.3 million debate-related tweets during debate

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - An estimated 67.2 million people tuned in Wednesday evening to watch the first of three presidential debates.  Many of those viewers were also interacting with one another through social media.
    
Millions expressed their gut reactions to the presidential debate in 'real time'.  Among them, was Esteban Benitez of West Palm Beach.  During the presidential debate, Benitez was in front of two laptop computers, his smartphone and the TV. 

"You had this need to know what other people were thinking," said Benitez.  "Is Romney winning? Is Obama doing better?"

During the 90-minute match-up at the University of Denver, Twitter reported 10.3 million debate-related tweets.  Some of those tweets were coming from Benitez and his friends. 

"Social media is our daily life," he said.  "From the morning to the evening, that's pretty much all we do."

Northwood University Professor Timothy Gilbert says social media's roll in American politics is undeniable, with the campaigns themselves jumping right into debate about the debate.

"You're actually trying to influence the people's perception, because you're tweeting out to them at the same time they are tweeting back," said Gilbert.

Tweeting back to millions of people like Benitez, who said he would rather be here sounding off on social media than sitting in the audience at the debate two thousand miles away. 

"They couldn't clap, couldn't comment, couldn't do anything, while the people on social media were blasting out their opinions on social media right away," said Benitez.

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