Online searches on Google, Blinkx and the social web suggest that it is policies rather than personalities that were dominating the web - but Iceland's volcano rose above politics altogether
Google search trends throughout the leaders’ debate reveal that it was definitions of words used by David Cameron and Nick Clegg that voters rushed to find as ITV1 broadcast the programme.
“Trident”, the nuclear deterrent Mr Clegg pledged to scrap, and “quango”, the unelected bodies that Mr Cameron has set his sights on reducing, were the subjects of the majorityity of significantly increased search traffic, going up by about a quarter and a half respectively. Searches on Mr Cameron’s theme of Labour’s national insurance rise being a “jobs tax” rose by a factor of about six and continued to remain high, although it was only a more important term than “trident” for a few minutes.
Significantly more people were searching for Nick Clegg and David Cameron than Gordon Brown and searches for the parties' manifestoes also rose. When Mr Brown mentioned Lord Ashcroft, searches for the controversial peer also increased, but Google pointed out that “Overwhelming [all] these debate-related queries was the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano and the closure of British air space”.
Video search site Blinkx, meanwhile, reported that Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg were the subjects of significantly increased web traffic. Over the course of the debate, searches for the pair were up 125 per cent and 126 per cent. Searches for Gordon Brown rose 83 per cent.
Although social media traffic was enormous in volume, crashing both ITV’s and Facebook’s online voting systems for parts of the debate, the numbers involved in those conversations were relatively small. Tweetminster, the stie that aggregates political traffic from Twitter, reported that less than 37,000 of the 10 million viewers were tweeting about the leaders’ debate. Each sent an average of approximately six tweets throughout the 90-minute programme. A “slapometer”, which allowed web-users to punish the leaders, was used by just 20,000 people.