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This Analysis Suggests Elizabeth May Dominated The Twitter Debate

She spoke the fewest words, but came out on top.

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Green party leader Elizabeth May has always struggled to be included in election debates. But an analysis of tweets sent during #MacDebate suggests she emerged as the dominant and most influential voice.

BuzzFeed Canada is working with social data analysis platform Nexalogy to track and analyze online discussion about the federal election. In advance of, and during, last night's debate, Nexalogy captured all of the tweets sent using the #MacDebate hashtag.

We then used its platform to dig into the data and see which trends stood out. May's success is one clear storyline. The data also showed that Thomas Mulcair of the NDP did a good job linking Prime Minister Stephen Harper with a recession.

Prior to the debate, the most influential Twitter accounts were, in order: @MacleansMag, @ElizabethMay, @JustinTrudeau, @PMHarper, @InklessWells (the moderator), and @ThomasMulcair.


To gauge influence, Nexalogy uses a combination of tweets mentioning the account, and the retweets and replies that those tweets receive.

After the debate was over, Elizabeth May owned the top spot. She was followed by Trudeau, Harper and Mulcair. The Green Party account was also the most influential party account.


The candidates kept the same order as before, but it's notable that the fourth-place candidate who has often not been in debates was in the end the most influential on Twitter. Her supporters did a good job talking her up prior to the debate. Then she built on that during the event itself.

On top of her personal impact, the Green party's account was also more influential than any of the others.


Hashtags are another sign of May's debate success. We looked at the hashtags most associated with May during the debate, and they tended towards the positive.

Any future debate that excludes @ElizabethMay won't be worth watching. She ROCKED tonight and I'm not even a green! #MayMustStay #macdebate

"On Twitter, creative hashtags give us a good idea of how each leader came across," said Nexalogy analyst Sandra D'Angelo. "Elizabeth May came across the most positively in this respect, with hashtags like #honesty and #realtalk. There was a significant insistence on having her participate in future debates with hashtags #letelizabethmayspeak, #includeelizabethmay, and #needmoremay."

Interestingly, #FirstNations was one of the more popular unique hashtags associated with Thomas Mulcair. That is likely in part thanks to this favourable tweet about him from the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

Mulcair correct: Canada shouldn’t spend $ fighting #FirstNations in court, work with us nation-to-nation #macdebate


This image shows that Harper's name (the large red node) was closely aligned with talk of a recession (small red node). Mulcair's name is also closely related, as it shows up as a large orange node that links to both Harper and "recession."

"When we dive deeper into the data we see that the NDP has hung the recession around Harper's neck," said Nexalogy CEO Claude Théoret. "Recession is the eleventh most important concept associated to Harper and the biggest issue behind the senate and taxws (carbon, Netflix and other). Inspection of the tweets reveal that a vast majority of people credit Tom Mulcair with calling out and getting the PM to admit that we are probably in a recession."

Aside from the leaders, it's worth noting which tweets overall proved to be the most popular during the debate. Here are the top five most retweeted tweets from #MacDebate, in order of the number of retweets.

After @ElizabethMay's performance tonight it would absolutely irresponsible for the @globeandmail to exclude her at their debate. #macdebate

My role is not to apologize for the bad actions of others. My role is to make others apologize, then throw them under the bus. #macdebate


Trudeau knocks that one out of the park. You want a # Mr. Mulcair, 9. Supreme Court judges. 9. #macdebate

FACT CHECK: It’s true that most countries have Parliamentary oversight of security legislation. Bill C-51 provides none. #macdebate

Tom Mulcair talks like he's telling his mom how to use e-mail. Patient, slow, with just a hint of burning rage. #macdebate

Craig Silverman is a media editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto.

Contact Craig Silverman at

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