Infovis in the Debates

I‘m currently watching the first presidential debates, presumably with some fair percentage of America.

There is a graph at the bottom of the screen called “Audience Reaction.” I cannot figure out the data.

As you can see, the two parties and independents are represented by colors on to the left. The Y-axis seems to increase (I think the center is zero, but not really sure). The X-axis is time, so the graph scrolls while they talk.

But where are these data coming from? It can’t be the audience… there is no clapping or hooting that would “raise” the lines of approval. Did they give them clickers? Is it from online reactions? Are the Nielsen families calling in? For these data to have meaning, we need more information.

For example, we need to know if the reaction is from the Mississippi audience or from a national one. We need to know if the sample is random. We need to know the number of people in each group (I would assume the two parties have a larger number of contributors to the graph than the independents.)

Last, I know I’m not the only one confused. Check out the top hits for my search:

(A final nitpick: the graph barely changes… what scale is it on!?!?)

Update: At the end of the debate (and presumably at the beginning) they revealed the audience members are in “focus groups.” I still don’t have most of my questions answered, but it’s something.

3 thoughts on “Infovis in the Debates”

  1. You may already know this, but I just saw this on The Daily Show. They had a bunch of people with these little devices called “Perception Analyzers”. Yeah. Basically they were little remotes with a volume like dial on it, and a digital display that went from 0-100. These people watched the debate and if they agreed with the candidate they turned it up, if they disagreed they turned it down. Very strange.

  2. Perception analyzers were featured in an episode of the Simpsons (season 8, episode 14). The guy in the picture (click to view) said, “if you like what you see, turn the knob to the right; if you don’t like what you see, turn the knob to the left.”

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