CNN Republican Primary Debates

September 16, 2015

Overview

CNN gave viewers a voice during the September 16, 2015 CNN Reagan Library Debate by allowing them to react in real-time with Microsoft Pulse. Hundreds of thousands of viewers used Pulse to engage with the debate on a second screen, indicating whether they agreed or disagreed with what the candidates were saying. Users castes over 1.5 million votes throughout the debate, and CNN integrated viewer responses into its immediate post-event analysis and coverage. Over 23 million viewers tuned into the debate with an additional 4.5 million live video starts across digital platforms, making it the most-watched program in CNN history.

Implementation

CNN aired two debates in which Pulse was used – a three hour-long debate featuring the 11 top-polling Republican candidates, and an hour and a half-long early debate featuring five other candidates. Pulse voting was integrated into both debates, with viewers engaging and voting through a responsive web app as often as they liked. Results were shown in real time on the Pulse voting page and learnings were shared socially on Twitter by CNN. CNN integrated the Pulse results on its live program feed through lower-third graphics, and analyzed and replayed key moments of the night during the post-debate coverage to enhance its analysis. As a result, voter’s immediate reactions to the winners and losers of the debate became an immediate part of the spin-room and conversation around the debate.

Insights

The votes cast throughout the three-hour debate were aggregated and summarized into the following infographic. For more information about insights and the debate experience, click here.

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