Social media to be a huge part of the presidential debate experience

Social media to be a huge part of the presidential debate experience

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump. Theirs is the face-off millions eagerly await.

"Pure entertainment," said one man when asked what he was looking for in Monday night's televised debate.

Whatever the motive, the first presidential debate is must-watch TV, and for many, especially younger voters, social media is a necessary part of the experience.

"Check on what other people are saying and if any other former presidential candidate had any input on the current ones," said Ross Donovan.

Gone are the days when TV debate watchers wait patiently for commentators to size up the candidates' performance.

"What we'll see on social media is what people, voters, are saying and thinking during and after the debate," said Loyola University journalism professor Lisa Collins.

Social media has not only changed political campaigns, but how consumers take in candidate debates.

"People are having what's called a dual-screen, or second-screen experience," Collins said. "More people are going to watch the debate on TV, but they'll also be using their other devices, their tablets, their mobile phones, their laptops to have a conversation both on Twitter and Facebook."

"The unpredictability and spontaneity of Donald Trump adds to the entertainment value of tonight's debate," said FOX 8 political analyst Mike Sherman.

Still, Sherman believes many debate watchers will be listening for substantive answers from Clinton and Trump.

"We're going to have a chance to see the candidates in-depth, discuss policy. With 90 minutes of discussion, they're going to have to go deeper than surface level," he said.

But the social media component of watching and digesting debates could work for or against the two candidates. A verbal mistake could go viral in mere moments.

"What we all know is that if they slip for that one moment and give that one soundbite where they're off message, that could change the complexion of the election," said Sherman.

It is a debate that affords both candidates a big opportunity to woo swing voters and energize their base of support.

"Hillary Clinton has challenged him that he's unfit to be president, he doesn't have the temperament or the policy chops," Sherman said. "Tonight's a chance for him to either prove or disprove that thesis."

And Clinton has the chance to win over voters who have not warmed up to her personality.

"In this election cycle, trustworthiness and likability are her Achilles' heel. Tonight she's going to have half of that 90-minute stage to connect with voters," Sherman said.

Even as digital scrutiny happens before a huge instant audience.

"You get to see the overall opinion of the people as opposed to normally when you kind of just had to go off who you had around you, maybe family, occasionally one or two friends," stated Donovan.

Collins said more people turning to social media for their news content.

"Nielsen measures TV ratings, but now they're also measuring social media. So if people have conversations on Facebook or Twitter about certain events, Nielsen measures that, they do a top 10, and so we can see after the debates what people were talking about during the debate, what generated those viral moments that people were seeing," said Collins.

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