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This Real-Time Polling App Could Give 'Second-by-Second' Reactions of Political Debates Better Than Twitter


"it's brand new, no one's ever done it."

(Image: React Labs)

Since the debates ended Wednesday evening between candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, numbers have been crunched to see who "won" the debate.

As University of California-Davis political science professor Amber Boydstun points out, most polling of voters' reactions happens after the debate. But what about the atmosphere during the debate?

UC-Davis and other universities have teamed up to test a smartphone app that would provide real-time polling as the candidates are still in the process of debating.

"There is very little data in the political science world that deals with real-time reaction, and this will help us get that information," Boydstun said in a statement.

Boydstun talks about the app in this video, saying "it's brand new, no one's ever done it.":

According to UC-Davis News, 175 political science professors across the country and 12,000 students signed up to test the real-time polling app. Here's how it works:

The app, released to students in a limited quantity for the first debate, will allow viewers who sign in on their phones or computers to use button taps to register agreement or disagreement with candidates’ arguments. App users will also be able to signal when they think a candidate is spinning a fact or dodging a question.

Students will be asked pre- and post-survey questions intended to collect demographic information and to help measure changes in attitudes toward the candidates during the debates.

Philip Resnik, a linguistics and computer science professor at the University of Maryland, developed the real-time polling technology React Labs, which is being used by the app. According to the React Labs web site, the app will give "second-by-second information about people's reactions." UC-Davis News explains that this is the first time such technology is being tested on such a large scale.

Resnik told TheBlaze in an email that the debut of the app last night was "remarkable." It brought together more than 3,700 students and analysis of the event is already being conducted.

Although you may also be thinking that Twitter serves this purpose for real-time reactions, React Labs states that "it's wildly messy and doesn't let you choose the questions you want answered."

Testing of the app will continue throughout the presidential and vice-presidential debates. If successful, Boydstun, who developed the app with Resnik and other colleagues, said she sees it being used to live-poll everything from political events to sporting competitions.

Unfortunately for now though, the app is still in development and is not publicly available.

Resnik said this is "just the beginning of what we will be able to accomplish with a new technology that can tap into people's instantaneous, moment by moment reactions on a large scale."

(H/T: Science Daily)

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