Who Won the Debate, Obama or Romney? Xbox LIVE Says…

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Where did you catch the debate Tuesday night? Broadcast television? Cable news channel? Public broadcast system? Streaming online?

How about Xbox LIVE?

If you don’t have an Xbox 360 or didn’t watch the first debate streaming on Xbox LIVE, where Microsoft and YouGov have been hosting both the presidential and vice-presidential debates, you may be surprised to learn that on Tuesday night, over 100,000 Xbox LIVE members tuned in via their video game consoles to watch President Obama and Governor Romney square off.

(MORE: What Happened at the Second Presidential Debate)

And that’s not all these viewers did: Microsoft’s been up to something unusual and arguably groundbreaking as each debate airs — allowing viewers to interact through real-time polling.

As CNN’s Candy Crowley, the debate moderator, was delivering her opening remarks, a dark blue strip at screen bottom displayed the question: “Should the electoral college be abolished?” and displayed live, shifting percentile results as viewers clicked “Yes,” “No” or “Don’t Know.” A moment later, another question: “Do you think journalists are generally biased?”

Over the course of the debate, which lasted a little over 90 minutes, Microsoft says viewers responded to some 70 polling questions in real time. That’s a lot of interaction — almost a question every minute. And here’s where the math gets interesting: Microsoft says individual responses to poll questions totaled over two million, each question averaging 35,000 to 40,000 responses apiece.

The company says all of that makes the second presidential debate on Xbox LIVE “one of the largest single-screen interactive TV experiences in history.” I don’t doubt it.

Let’s answer the question I’ve posed in the title. Microsoft says that “the aggregate raw responses to the poll questions clearly favored Obama.” But the company then drills deeper, shifting the focus to “undecideds and leaners,” a group that may determine the election in just a few weeks.

Their take on who won the debate? Says Microsoft:

Obama carried this 2nd presidential debate with the “Xbox Undecided/Swing Voters” — respondents who identified themselves as undecided or leaning toward one candidate or the other, prior to the debate.

The percentile breakdown: 51% of undecideds said Obama won, 17% said it was Romney and 32% of undecideds were — wait for it — “undecided.”

Granted, the demographic we’re talking about isn’t representative of the general electorate. I’m lucky enough to be married to someone who deals with polls in a professional research capacity, and she tells me this is what’s called a “non-probability sample.” That essentially means it’s not concerned with being representative, or — if you want to read more than you probably need to about probability sampling — as Wikipedia (correctly) puts it, “Nonprobability sampling techniques cannot be used to infer from the sample to the general population.”

(MORE: Debate Watch: The Fact-Check Heard Round the World)

Let’s break down the Xbox LIVE audience quickly, so we know more precisely who we’re talking about. According to Microsoft, 66% of Xbox LIVE users are male, while 34% are female. Eighty percent are aged 18 to 44, 51% are married and 31% are single. Fifty-nine percent are college-educated, 81% are employed, less than half make $75,000 or more a year, 77% are white (versus 18% non-white), and — here’s the surprise, or at least I found it surprising, given conventional assumptions about younger voters — 29% identify as Republican, 25% as Democrat and a whopping 42% identify as Independent.

Still, it’s interesting to see some of the pullouts here. Take “truthfulness”: Microsoft reports that 52% of responders who identified as “undecided” declared Obama the most truthful, while 17% said it was Romney. Or “specificity”: 56% of undecideds said Obama was “specific enough” about his plans, while 17% said as much of Romney.

Walking away from the debate, Microsoft reports 28% of undecided responders “either leaned or decisively supported Obama,” while 10% “either leaned or decisively supported Romney.”

Sidenote: Microsoft wisely requires respondents to click an answer before showing the poll results in real time, eliminating that as a potential biasing factor. But there’s something else the company is doing by simply asking questions at all: By crafting the poll questions and timing when they appear — often contextual, but sometimes not — Microsoft is, to a greater or lesser degree, shaping the way viewers experience the debate itself.

Seeing poll results in real time may influence your perception of the debate — a little like instantly accessible exit polling. If 52% say Obama was more “truthful,” does that make you more inclined to think it’s so, reinforcing your belief and potentially coloring your responses to subsequent related questions? It’s worth considering. After all, how, when and in what context you ask a question, as well as how you allow respondents to answer, is at the core of crafting meaningful poll questions.

In any case, three down, one to go. If you have an Xbox 360, Microsoft will stream the final presidential debate free through Xbox LIVE on  Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, 9:00pm–10:30pm ET. If you’re an Xbox 360 owner and haven’t done this yet, you might want to tune in just to see what all the “live interactive polling” hullabaloo’s about. Whether through a game console or a simple set-top device, you’re looking at what may well be the future of the form, where you’re able to view live results as they happen instead of waiting for day-after results.

MORE: The Hofstra Debate: No Clear Winner

23 comments
ericandersson
ericandersson

Obama and Mitt Romney both keeps saying "I will do that I will do that" and, as some one else wrote on this page, with out no specific explanations. Some politicians actually do explain things clearly. Some doesn't seem to to know their stuff at all. Maybe they are getting old and don't care any more or something. Maybe, I just saying maybe, it's time to leave the field for the younger players such as the mitt romney sons? Let me know what you think. And, please to flame war or anything like that, just keep things calm and polite. Thanks.

StevenNguyen
StevenNguyen

First the debate today did not focus on foreign policy as it should be. Romney tried hard to slam Obama on the economy issues while avoid discussing in details about foreign policies that he does not master. I think the president was good but not forceful enough today for a clear winning.If I were the president I had done the followings:1. From the beginning the president might say : Today we will talk about foreign policies so I will not fall into Governor's Romney trap of side tracking the main issue into the economy and domestic issues. This should be an empty strike to slow down Romney today.2. When Romney talked about the smaller navy and defense. Obama might say: Sorry now I understand you and I are different, you tried to run the country like a business man while I have been running the country like the command in chief. It is the big fallacy to think that the bigger is the better, the efficiency instead. For example, the drones are much smaller now but can do much bigger and better jobs compared to the big airplane 30 years ago.3. When Romney complaint that Obama did not stop by Israel. Obama might say, sorry again I don't think you understand the foreign policy and that is another fallacy. Not stopping by does not mean I don't care about Israel. Yes I do care about Israel but I did not stop by because I was confident in them and wanted to spend more time in the countries that I still need to work it out. For example, sorry to people in California and New York who majority vote for Democrats since sometimes I flew over your adjacent states but I did not have time to stop by your states because I know in my heart that I am in your confident and I need to save energy for other states.Clearly Obama won by a narrow margin today. However, he did not have quick responses as he did in the second debate as well as being drawn into Romney's nonsense economy repeats that were clearly out of designated subject for the last debate.

George Perkins
George Perkins

On this bus th tv says loes me but I beleav rush,Bilixo MS hrud diffrent Am suck here and do not want my unclu to cry.Am a a MAn that had alot of what200.00 in this contan nat and you would like to say theres a problim with a preasint sind this men to a fight IM //SORRY but the book are meen'

Joseph Gillen
Joseph Gillen

win? Lose? what is this High School 101 debate?

Maria Helena
Maria Helena

Barack Obama, of course ! Dear Romney, America's corporate tax rate is 35%, but a lot of them, like GE, don't pay that 35% because of loopholes that allows them to pay absolutely NOTHING in taxes. Put things in context Conservative principle : privatizing profits socializing losses, dont tax them. President Clinton adopted a series of austerity measures balanced the budget and left us with a surplus. Bush ruined it in 5 years. AGAINST FACTS THERE ARE NOT ARGUMENTS

David Lautz
David Lautz

Crowley just admitted she was wrong about the rose garden speach. Without that it's clearly a Romney win. Besides that, the first debate gave Romney a boost. This DID NOT give Obama a boost. Lose!

Keith Netzel
Keith Netzel

Obama won this debate hands down. Especially towards the end

Stuart Meyer
Stuart Meyer

These debates are SNL comedy. No, actually SNL would have more accurate fact checks. Jerry Springer should moderate.

Jamie Fox
Jamie Fox

I want to see more of the breakdown of the age groups. I'm betting that the majority of the Xbox viewers are actually 18-25 and possibly even younger. The ONLY reason my 19 yr unemployed full-time college student son is watching the debate on his Xbox is because of the FREE "gift" he will receive that can be used in the new Halo game that is coming out. He has showed no interest in politics until this incentive from Microsoft was announced.

Alex Pyle
Alex Pyle

I watched it on my X-Box, it was a great service because I don't have cable or regular TV. So thank you Microsoft for providing me access to the debates.

Ralph Muskinyaar
Ralph Muskinyaar

Mitt Romney kept saying "I will do this I will do that" and no actual explanations. For example the first question from the guy called Jeremy. Obama clearly explained things. Romney doesn't seem like he knows his own stuff.

Kathy-Anne Whitehouse
Kathy-Anne Whitehouse

Xbox Live the new Big Brother? Quite disconcerting....hmmm, wondering if their are any ($$$) conflict of interests surrounding this????

Diana Erickson
Diana Erickson

It felt like my parents were arguing! It made me so squirmey. I had to leave the room three times. I hate it when my parents fight.