Election 2012: Searching And Researching The Presidential Debates

The final debate between U.S. presidential candidates Obama and Rommney airs tonight. Until the election next month, a lot of attention will continue to be on the presidential and vice presidential debates.

Here’s an easy and free way to keyword search debate video and then immediately view the video online.

In fact, all of the presidential debates back to 1988 can offer keyword searchable video.

Where do you search and access?

Visit the wonderful, irreplaceable and important C-SPAN Video Library.

I’ll be taking an in-depth look at this resource in an upcoming report but in a nutshell, the C-SPAN Video Library allows you to search (keyword search and/or browse) and view just about everything that has ever aired on the C-SPAN Network since 1987. This means about 194,500 hours of video content as of today.

While C-SPAN is best known for providing live coverage of Congressional activity, you’ll also find political rallies,  book talks, one-on-one interviews, special events and much more like this recent forum on Google and anti-trust.

Quickly and Easily Keyword Search Presidential Debate Video

You can watch the first two Oct 3, 2012 and Oct 16, 2012 debates where President Obama and Mitt Romney debated a wide range of policy issues in nationally televised debates.  Or view the October 11th debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Representative Paul Ryan. You’ll find links to tonight’s final debates on the C-SPAN Video Library homepage or in the Campaign 2012 section of the library.

Direct links to video to debates between 1988-2008 are available here.

In Depth How-To: Searching The 2012 Vice-Presidential Debate

You’ll see a link labeled, “View Full Event (3 Programs)“.

Here you can access both the prologue to the debate (Martha Raddatz talking to the audience, not seen on other networks) and the switched screen feed of the debate (the camera switching between both candidates).

Whichever video you select, they’re all searchable. Let’s head back to where we first landed a moment ago, the “Split Screen” feed. 

Scroll down and find the transcript search box. Make sure it’s marked “text”. Here’s where you enter the search terms.

Enter your search term(s). You can search all speakers or limit to either candidate or the moderator.

Using quotation marks for phrases does not work. So, just enter your term(s). In this case I’m looking for the phrase american people.

Click the arrow or hit return.

Your search term(s) should appear if they were spoken. The transcript you’re searching was mechanically generated using the closed captioning from the broadcast. It’s not perfect so be careful.

To view the video beginning where your terms are spoken simply click the results box where those words are found.

Other Useful C-SPAN Video Features

It’s also possible to browse and view using the text timeline. Select it from the pulldown menu where you selected text transcript. Cursor over each speakers name to see the text of what was spoken.

On the right side of the page you’ll find the “speaker” header. Click here and you’ll find direct links to video of each time the person appeared on C-SPAN.

Below the video box you’ll find the clip and share links. You can quickly share the entire video on Twitter, Facebook or Google. Embedding is also possible. The clip link lets you select a portion of the video to save or share.

I plan to write much more about the C-SPAN Video Library in an upcoming post. Meanwhile, enjoy the debate tonight and viewing the historical archive that this rich repository offers.

Related Topics: Channel: Video | Features: General | Search Engines: Government Search Engines | Search Engines: Video Search Engines

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About The Author: is a librarian, author, and an online information analyst based in suburban Washington, DC. He is the co-founder and co-editor of INFOdocket and FullTextReports.com and prior to that was founder/editor of ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. He has worked for Blekko, Ask.com, and at Search Engine Watch where he was news editor. In 2001, Price was the co-author (with Chris Sherman) of the best-selling book The Invisible Web.

Connect with the author via: Email



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  • http://www.engag.io/Abdallah Abdallah Al-Hakim

    So that’s how the Jon Stewart show searches for comments in videos :) The C-span features seem to be very powerful for those interested in digging deeper into the candidates actual statements. Another powerful feature is the ability to search the online comments, here’s a cool search from Engagio pre- or post- debate: http://bit.ly/debate3

  • http://www.debatepopular.blogspot.com Julio-Debate blog

    Well, another recommended source to watch online. I recommend it as well and I think the debate Obama and Romney won was left midway and had his best time in the first debate.

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