What Is Facebook's Role In Political Debates?

The “Meet the Press” weekly web show, “Press Pass,” discussed whether debates matter on the Facebook D.C. page this afternoon, but sidestepped what we think is a more interesting topic: the role that the social network plays in a debate.

Still, the livestream was timely, since we are in the midst of debate season with the Republican presidential candidates.

The broadcast featured Jim Lehrer, frequent debate moderator, anchor of the PBS “Newshour” program, and author of The Last Debate, a fictional and humorous, behind-the- scenes account of a presidential debate.

Joining “Meet the Press” host David Gregory were two politicos; Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice President Biden, who has prepared every Democratic presidential candidate since 1992, and Kevin Madden, former communications director for Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign.

Facebook is expected to stream a Republican presidential debate on “Meet the Press,” the Sunday before the New Hampshire primary, which could come as early as December 6, 2011.

Questions posted to the Facebook D.C. Live page were shared with the guests on the “Press Pass.” They included:

  • Are the questions known by the candidates in advance?
  • Do politicians naturally debate well, or can anyone be coached to succeed?

The guests discussed debate formats, the evolution of debates from the 1960s until today, and how different candidates have performed over the years.

The discussion would have been more interesting if it addressed how Facebook has taken center stage in debates.

The reactions that viewers post to the social network increasingly determine the outcome of the debate. And candidate’s support can take off following a televised debate, spurred on by the power of social media channels, such as Facebook.

With the next Republican presidential primary debate slated for October 18, we thought we would take a quick look at Facebook like tallies for each of the major candidates using our Election Tracker 2012 tool.

Right now, Hermain Cain still has a huge lead over his competitors, getting a particularly nice bump in Facebook likes following the Bloomberg-Washington Post debate earlier this week.

What sort of political dialogues do you engage in on Facebook right now?

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