Change in public perception of Nick Clegg

After the first TV debate, the initial discussions centred on the fact that Nick Clegg to everyone’s surprise had won the debate. This can be seen by examining the words that were close in context to Nick Clegg in both the BBC Have Your Say forum and also comments made on the Telegraph’s website immediately following the debate.

BBC HYS: well, won, think, good, top, lose, best, agree, interesting, articulate, complimenting

The Telegraph: won, reform, easy, candidate, choice, incumbent, outmanoeuvre, power

As can be seen in the two lists above, the words are very strong and powerful, and reflect perhaps the surprise in the public at Nick Clegg’s performance. The lists are also ordered in terms of the importance of these words to Nick Clegg, so that the words that are closer in context are at the front of the list. It is clear to see here that in both websites the public has Nick Clegg as the winner, with the word “won” at the front of both lists.

This changed in the second TV debate. Nick Clegg was no longer a surprise package and this was reflected in the words found in context in the comments made (again the words are ordered so that the words closer in context to Nick Clegg are at the front of the list):

BBC HYS: issues, audience, common, constantly, notice, camera, passion, serious, slowly, trick, distract, shifting, intensity, won, better, immigration, good

The Telegraph: stronger, bad, prime, minister, stage, 2nd, caring, amazingly

Here we can see that Nick Clegg is not considered to be the clear winner; in fact the word ‘won’ or similar does not appear in context in the comments on the Telegraph website at all, unlike the first set of data, and on the BBC website comes some way down the list. Here we can see how the public is responding to Nick Clegg differently, showing that their surprise at his performance in the 1st TV debate has now been replaced with more scrutiny of his performance and of his policies.

Indeed many of the words that are in context from the BBC website data seem to relate to Clegg’s interaction with the audience and camera. There are only two words that are not related to this which are “issues” and “immigration”.

In the Telegraph data we see that the consensus is that Nick Clegg finished 2nd (presumably behind Cameron), with a focus on the fact that depending on the result Nick Clegg could end up being Prime Minister. Again there is a lack of discussion on any policies.

It is expected that there will be a further change in the coming days, and in particular following the third tv debate on Thursday 29th April. We will revisit this analysis in the coming days to reflect the changing public opinion and in particular to analyse the words closest in context to Nick Clegg and the other leaders.

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