In 2016, the first live televised Presidential debates were held in Uganda as a precursor to the general elections that took place in February and March 2016. With support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the debates were organized by a tripartite of impartial entities as a joint and balanced space for Presidential candidates to share their vision and plan with the people of Uganda.
The debates raised a lot of interest and were heavily discussed on social media, in particular on Facebook. Pulse Lab Kampala worked with UNDP to unearth public opinions around the organization of the debates to understand how they were perceived by Ugandans. The project examined, in aggregate, the level of public satisfaction with the overall organization of the debates and how they were viewed as relevant to the electoral process.
In order to filter posts related to the debates, Pulse Lab Kampala created a taxonomy of keywords and categorized the comments into “general” and “thematic”. The analysis yielded 50,000 relevant public Facebook posts from January and February 2016, when the first and second televised debates took place. It also revealed four specific topics of discussion related to the candidates, the organizers, the moderators, and the outreach of the debates–in Uganda, not all of the population owns a TV.
Results from the corpus of analysed data showed a generally high degree of positive perceptions, with debates being viewed as an important milestone for democracy in Uganda.