The social news site Reddit has a thriving community devoted to all things Trump, appropriately called r/The_Donald. It boasts nearly a quarter-million subscribers, or “centipedes,” as they refer to themselves, and more than 22,000 of those “healthy patriots” were active in the threads during the second presidential debate.
That’s a tremendous number of people online at a given time for a singular pursuit—enough to force trending topics or sway the results of an instant reaction poll. Such was the case after the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, when Reddit and 4chan users colluded to swing online polls in Trump’s favor. At first glance, the real estate mogul clearly swept that initial debate, earning wins in reader polls by Time, CNBC, Fortune, Breitbart, and the Hill, among others, as captured in this now-infamous Trump tweet:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2016
But those numbers unraveled under closer scrutiny, after the tactics of 4chan and Reddit were reported by the Daily Dot. Even a Fox News executive dismissed the unscientific online polls, clarifying that they “do not meet our editorial standards.”
Sunday evening, Reddit’s r/The_Donald rallied once more behind Trump, only this time they had some added motivation.
Trump left a brief message on the forum Sunday night, mere minutes before taking the stage. It was titled “MAINSTREAM MEDIA is rigged!,” a message that he attempted to underscore in his banter with the debate moderators throughout the course of the evening. (Trump also posted to the forum before the vice presidential debate and previously took part in an AMA, or “Ask Me Anything,” interview session on the site.)
I won’t allow them to push me out. I FIGHT for YOU, not them.
Hillary will have to answer for her actions TONIGHT.
Join all of my team, please. Join them all and stop the RIGGED mainstream media. Use #BigLeagueTruth and watch the debate LIVE on DonaldJTrump.com.
We will Make America GREAT Again.
The message clearly resonated on r/The_Donald, turning the thread into a lively hub for live reactions to the debate. It received more than 17,000 comments in just four hours. As the closing arguments took place, users were clamoring for links to polls, specifically those that are susceptible to various forms of manipulation, like vote brigading and botting.
The subreddit did not disappoint, posting links to dozens of instant-analysis surveys.
The efforts clearly had their intended effect.
Here’s one BuzzFeed poll that went in Trump’s favor, and the reaction it received on Reddit.
You could also see the impact on Twitter.
Who won the debate tonight?
— UCF Knight News (@UCFKnightNews) October 10, 2016
QUESTION: Who won the second presidential debate?
— IQOnlinePolls (@IQOnlinePolls) October 9, 2016
But it wasn’t a landslide, either. Clinton managed to pull ahead in a few online polls, including one from the Heavy (pictured below), which caused a mild panic in the forum.
If Clinton’s win in these polls was the result vote-brigading, it certainly wasn’t as obvious as what took place on Reddit. Trump, for his part, was eager to retweet his belief that he won the debate:
— Team Trump (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TeamTrump) October 10, 2016
Just in case it still needs reiterating: Never trust unscientific online polls.