Yahoo! readers rate the debate: ‘$10,000 is more than some people make in a year’

Phoebe Connelly
December 11, 2011

For the Republican candidates' debate in Iowa on Saturday night, Yahoo News posed real-time questions to those watching the event live stream to gauge their feelings about candidates' responses to moderators (and each other), and solicited comments on a live blog of the event. Here are the key takeaways from our audience feedback, along with other nuggets from the social sphere:

Romney's $10,000 bet was a mistake
Yahoo! readers watching the debate were not impressed by Mitt Romney's suggestion that Rick Perry take a $10,000 bet on whether the former Massachusetts governor was really for individual health care mandates. Viewers expressed strong disapproval in the comments of our live blog: "$10,000 is more than some people make in a year," wrote one commenter. When we asked viewers, "Did you like seeing Mitt Romney ask Rick Perry to accept a $10,000 wager?," just 33 percent of the first 1,200 people who responded answered "yes." By the time the question closed at 11 p.m. with just over 25,000 votes, 70 percent of Yahoo! watchers said "no," they did not like the wager. You can watch a clip of the moment above.

NPR politics editor Neal Carruth commented on Twitter: "Suspect the $10,000 bet will remind people of this photo." The picture, from the Romney's days at Bain Capital, shows the candidate and his colleagues gleefully posing with money. Jonah Goldberg of the National Review Online tweeted, "Memo to Romney: Please don't now say that proceeds from $10,000 bet would have gone to charity." Our own Zachary Roth crunched the numbers and calculated that $10,000 is .005 percent of Romney's net worth.

Twitter jumped on the $10,000 figure immediately. It spiked as a topic, with 3,400 real time tweets, according to an analysis by ABC and Blue Fin labs. Minutes after the debate ended, the moment was already on its way to becoming a meme—Reuters social media editor Anthony De Rosa noted that #What10kbuys was trending worldwide.

Viewers' top issue: the economy
Yahoo! visitors began the debate most interested in hearing the candidates discuss jobs and the economy: at the kickoff, 70 percent of those offering audience feedback said they wanted to hear about those issues the most.

And after moderator Diane Sawyer asked the candidates about job creation early in the debate, 72 percent of viewers who answered the question, "Are you satisfied with the candidates' answers on how to stimulate the economy?" said "no."

And when we later asked, "Which issue would you like to hear more about in the last 25 minutes of the debate?" over 20,000 people responded "job creation." Candidates, take note.

Twitter: #debate trending, Romney paid for placement
On Twitter, #iowadebate was trending by 9:07, soon after the debate began. Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) purchased the promoted tweet for that hashtag and ran it with this tweet: "If I'm president, I will be true to my family, my faith and our country and I will never apologize for the US."

Yahoo! audience divided over Gingrich's 'Ted Kennedy' attack on Romney
The most popular question in our live poll was regarding Newt Gingrich's attack on Mitt Romney over running to left of Ted Kennedy in 1994, which garnered more than 28,000 votes. "The only reason you didn't become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy," Gingrich said. The responses were split, but slightly more (55 percent) respondents said they didn't like the attack, versus the 45 percent who did. You can watch a clip of the attack below:

The Palestinian question
Around the second hour of the debate, Gingrich's Friday statement about Palestinians being "an invented people" was raised by moderator George Stephanopoulos. Yahoo! IntoNow watchers had flagged it early in the debate as a topic they wanted to hear about. Omar S. wrote, "Ask Newt about his Palestinian statement, It was clearly racist and actually not factually accurate."

But another Yahoo! commenter wondered at the foreign policy discussion the question produced, "With as broken as this country is why are they wasting so much time on Bibi and co.?" You can watch the debate exchange below.

Have the candidates experienced financial hardship?
Yahoo! solicited questions from readers leading up to the debate, and  moderators choose this one from among thousands of submissions: From Andrew, 32, of Texas, "When was the last time you had a personal financial strain that forced you to not only give up luxury but also to cut back on necessity? And what were the consequences you faced?"

But as the candidates responded, a slim majority of viewers said they were not more likely to support a candidate just because he or she had suffered financial hardship. One commenter on the Yahoo! liveblog took the opportunity to circle back to Romney's bet: "mr.romney, i work 3 jobs to keep my family in the lifestyle i feel they deserve, how do you claim to be in touch with the 'middle class' when you casually propose a 10k bet so whimsically?"

In the final tally after the debate concluded however, the numbers had shifted: 61 percent said that a candidates' experience of lean times would make them more attractive.

The front runners: Newt vs. Romney
The final questions we asked Yahoo! readers had to do with whether they were satisfied with the performances of the two current front runners: Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. Gingrich won this round: 55 percent approved of his performance while 65 percent of viewers disapproved of Romney's performance.

Other popular Yahoo! News stories: