French Politics

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 206–233 | Cite as

Coproduction or cooptation? Real-time spin and social media response during the 2012 French and US presidential debates

  • Chris Wells
  • Jack Van Thomme
  • Peter Maurer
  • Alex Hanna
  • Jon Pevehouse
  • Dhavan V Shah
  • Erik Bucy
Original Article


Major political events now unfold in a hybrid political information cycle: even as millions of citizens tune in to television broadcasts, many also comment – and receive others’ comments – over social media. In previous research, we have described how biobehavioral cues spur Twitter discussion of candidates during American presidential debates. Here we extend that research to also account for other elements of the communication environment – in particular, messages from political and media elites reaching them via a ‘second screen’ such as mobile phone or tablet – and we apply our analyses to debates in both the United States and France. Specifically, we examine the relationship between the Twitter posts of 300 politicians, organizations and media figures from each country and the relevant messages of the larger Twitterverse during the debates. Our findings reveal commonalities in social media response in the two countries, particularly the powerful role of party figures and pundits in spurring social media posting. We also note differences between the social media cultures of the two countries, including the finding that French elites commanded relatively more attention (in the form of retweets) than their American counterparts. Implications for debate evaluations and online expression are discussed.


social media Twitter debate second screen 



The authors wish to express their thanks to Dr Axel Meireder for help assembling the list in the French case, and Stephanie D. Lassen for help with coding the French debate. This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government NRF-2013S1A3A2055285.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris Wells
    • 1
  • Jack Van Thomme
    • 2
  • Peter Maurer
    • 3
  • Alex Hanna
    • 4
  • Jon Pevehouse
    • 2
  • Dhavan V Shah
    • 1
  • Erik Bucy
    • 5
  1. 1.School of Journalism & Mass Communication, University of Wisconsin-MadisonWIUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonWIUSA
  3. 3.Institut für Publizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft, Universität WienAustria
  4. 4.Department of SociologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonWIUSA
  5. 5.Department of AdvertisingTexas Tech UniversityTX

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