Presidential debate 2012: ABC7/React Labs Instant Reaction lets you respond in real time

React instantly to the candidates during the debate by tapping agree, disagree, spin and doge. Photo: React Labs

All you have to do to participate tonight is log on to (get in early to ensure your spot in the event - we have the capacity to let thousands of you in!) from your compatible smartphone, tablet or computer on Wednesday night starting at 8:30 p.m. No download is required!

The 2012 presidential election season has been one of the most contentious in American history, and the drama promises to not let up until a winner is declared on Nov. 6.

At the same time, never before has the electorate been able to weigh in with its opinions in such a consistent and overwhelming fashion. The voters are speaking and speaking often, and at ABC7 News, we’re listening.

That’s why, starting with Wednesday night’s debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, which begins at 9 p.m. and ends at 10:30 p.m., we want you to weigh in like never before. For the first time, ABC7 is partnering with React Labs to offer ABC7/React Labs Instant Reaction – a revolutionary way to interact with the debates and your fellow voters.

“We’ve seen an outpouring of voter reaction like never before, and the challenge any journalist faces today is how to harness that conversation,” Justin Karp, WJLA’s Digital Operations Manager, says. “Instant Reaction is a terrific way to do just that.”

Developed by the University of Maryland’s Philip Resnik, Ph.D., Instant Reaction uses a smartphone-based application that will allow users to respond immediately and easily to what they’re watching on television. After answering a few short questions, users will have the chance to agree and disagree with the candidates in real time, as well as identifying points where Obama and Romney are pushing the party line or evading questions.

“Many people watching ABC7's debate broadcast really don't want their dinners interrupted by pollsters with survey questions, but those same people are using their mobile devices every day, and they do want their voices to be heard,” Resnik said.

Resnik is a professor at the University of Maryland who holds joint appointments at the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies and in the Department of Linguistics.

At the same time, debate watchers will get the chance to see their reactions and the responses of the other Instant Reaction participants in a real-time, flowing chart; an instant display of reaction and emotion to everything happening on debate night.

“This partnership really highlights the emerging potential of television as a two-way medium, not just for entertainment, but for improving the quality of public discourse,” Resnik said.

As one of the market’s journalistic leaders in digital innovation, social media and user interaction, ABC7 is proud to be affiliated with Resnik and React Labs on what is a groundbreaking project this election year.

“We’re intrigued by the possibility of getting more and better instant reaction to big events from our TV and web viewers,” Doug Culver, ABC7’s Vice President of News, says. “This experiment should enhance our coverage by providing an instant gauge on public sentiment."

The app runs on several major mobile devices - iPhone, Android and iPad - and on your computer in Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers. You’ll be prompted to answer a few short demographic questions, and then you’ll be free to react as much as you’d like. No download is required.

“React Labs and ABC7 are breaking new ground in getting people more engaged in the political process and helping them make their voices heard,” Resnik says.

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