What is also interesting to observe is how online attention turned sharply to the Liberal Democrat leader, if not his party.
According to our own analysis (see chart above), Nick Clegg was a lowly third in terms of Twitter mentions among the three party leaders the day before the debate. But in the run up to it and, more particularly, in the immediate aftermath his personal profile shot up. Indeed there was far more Twitter chatter about him than either David Cameron or Gordon Brown.
Mentions may equally be negative or positive but as a measure of public recognition, the rise will cheer the Lib Dems as much as the blogosphere, TV and newspaper verdict.
What is equally striking, however, is how little impact Clegg’s performance has had on mentions of his party (see chart below). This may be a reflection on the increasing focus given to party leaders and perhaps matters little. The early opinion polls seem to suggest as much.
Nevertheless, it is crucial that Clegg’s popularity translates into electoral success, particularly in the 20 key Lib Dem-Conservative marginals. In fact it matters as much to Labour as it does for the Lib Dems, because the Tories will struggle to gain an overall majority without those 20 seats. All of which helps explain why Labour spinners were being so nice about Clegg post-debate.
1. Party leaders: share of Twitter mentions – 14 April
David Cameron 34%
Gordon Brown 47%
Nick Clegg 19%
2. Party leaders: share of Twitter mentions – 15 -16 April
Nick Clegg 38%
Gordon Brown 32%
David Cameron 30%
3. Parties: share of Twitter mentions – 14 April
Lib Dems 25%
4. Parties: share of Twitter mentions – 15-16 April
Lib Dems 21%
Note: These numbers are based on how frequently parties and people were mentioned on Twitter between 14 and 16 April, with a number of adjustments to make sure that only mentions relating to the general election are considered. Mentions can be positive, negative or neutral, and should not be confused with popularity. The NS Digital Dashboard is powered by Resolver Systems.