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Social media exploded Sunday night as presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump clashed over personal and policy issues.

The Political Social Media Group, composed of students in a political communication graduate seminar, have been using sophisticated social media monitoring technology to scrutinize the debates leading up to the election. Among their observations about Sunday night’s town hall event:

  • There were two million more posts related to Sunday’s debate than were logged during the first presidential debate.
  • The debate began with a discussion about Trump’s recent video scandal, and social media responded with more than 180,000 posts containing the term “locker room.”
  • The other biggest issues raised during the debate—based on the number of social media posts—were Russia, energy, and health care.
  • Although media reports focused on the debate’s rancor—with Politico calling it “the ugliest debate in American history”—social media sentiment about both candidates actually seemed to improve after the debate.

The Political Social Media Group team is led by Stuart N. Brotman, Howard Distinguished Endowed Professor of Media Management and Law and Beaman Professor of Communication and Information.

The group will monitor social media during the October 19 presidential debate and on election night. They will post real-time analysis on their social media platforms and issue end-of-night reports for both events.

Get the Political Social Media Research Group’s analysis by following it on:

  • Twitter (@PSMRG_UTK)
  • Facebook (The Political Social Media Research Group)
  • Instagram (@psmrg_utk)
  • Medium (PSMRG)

The Political Social Media Group is based in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media in UT’s College of Communication and Information. The group is using the college’s new state-of-the-art Adam Brown Social Media Command Center to monitor various social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and Instagram, to spot trends and flashpoints—issues that spur the most social chatter—and to judge the sentiment of the chatter.

The Adam Brown Social Media Command Center uses Salesforce Marketing Cloud Social Studio—the same technology Fortune 100 companies worldwide use to publish, engage, and analyze their social media marketing activities. UT has unique access to the robust social media analytic technology required for this type of research. The center was built and is operated through a fund established for the college by Brown, an alumnus of the college who is now executive strategist for the San Francisco–based firm Salesforce.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034 or 865-333-8128,