CORNELL UNIVERSITY MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICESept. 22, 2016 Twitter will go nuts if Clinton lands off-the-cuff zingers at debate

Drew Margolin, a Cornell University communication professor who studies human dynamics through social media, has been tracking how the electorate reacts to presidential candidates on Twitter since the beginning of the primaries. Using a new method of real-time analysis, Margolin and his collaborator, Yu-Ru Lin of the University of Pittsburgh, found that during the party conventions, twitter users reacted favorably to Clinton's most memorable, quotable lines, but unfavorably to Trump's. Margolin expects this may foretell how audiences will react to 'zingers' during the upcoming debates.


NOTE: More data and analysis from the beginning of the campaign season can be found at, Margolin will be analyzing reactions to the first presidential debate in real-time on Monday.

Margolin says:

“Hillary's hurdle is to look authentic and trustworthy. She can do this by going off script and saying something interesting. Basically, doing what Trump does all the time, but without resorting to crudeness or inflammatory language.

“While prepared ‘zingers’ will, I think, continue to make her look guarded, I expect Twitter will go nuts if Clinton comes out of her protective shell and makes and lands an off-the-cuff criticism.

“Trump's hurdle is looking credible and serious. He needs to look grounded and in control. Landing one-liners is not going to help him do this. ‘Zingers’ will, I think, pigeonhole him as a showbiz guy. Holding back and being boring, and so not so quotable, is what he wants do.

“In 2012 when we analyzed tweets during the debates, Romney did very well in the first debate with very bland, straightforward criticisms of Obama. He kept it serious and both Republicans and Democrats on Twitter felt that he was in control and made Obama look weak. Trump should do this, which means he won't be as quotable as normal.”

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