Phone application records live reactions to presidential debate

A brand new, real-time smartphone application was unveiled last Wednesday night at the UC Davis Law School at King Hall. Seventy-five to 100 participants were hosted at a presidential debate viewing party and were invited to cast their live reactions to the debate via the app.

Co-founder Amber Boydstun, an assistant professor of political science at UC Davis, drafted the idea for the app with others from UC Davis, the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.

“We have been working on it for over a year. It is really interesting to figure out how people respond to different cues and specific behaviors,” Boydstun said.

This app provides research information as to how viewers respond to rhetoric, such as when candidates focus the conversation on issues that are advantageous solely to them, neglecting the real question.

“The app allows instant polling on a larger scale than has been possible in the past, and is envisioned as a way to help engage the Facebook generation in politics,” according to a press release on the app.

The students who participated in the event were able to view their live results on a large television screen.

According to the results, Obama received the most positive responses when he spoke on tax break elimination, but had a negative response overall on his fight for the middle class. Meanwhile, Romney was able to gain support with his energy and trading ideas to boost the economy, but fell short with his energy policy positions.

Fifty-two percent claim that Romney won the debate; however, 60 percent say they plan on voting for Obama. Fifty-six percent of the students identified themselves as Democrats and 27 percent as Republicans.

Some felt that the app could be improved. Student Gordon Ballingrud participated in the polling at the debate.

“The new app was fantastic, though I thought the choices were a bit limiting.  The options of ‘agree’ and ‘disagree’ seemed to be surrogates for ‘approve’ and ‘disapprove,’ as I think we were supposed to choose them whenever we had a positive or negative reaction to one of the people onstage,” Ballingrud said. “Still though, I think it could use a bit of tweaking as far as the options, it seemed to work well in gauging people’s reactions, and I thought it gave me a great outlet to express dissatisfaction or satisfaction with particular issues, statements and behaviors in general.”

He also commented that having the results posted so quickly was slightly distracting and he wondered how it affected the users. However, he did find it successful in allowing viewers to provide real-time responses.

Boydstun says she is excited because the app provides controlled data and real-time results across the country in a way that is engaging to students.

DANIELLE HUDDLESTUN can be reached at camus@theaggie.org.

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