Friday 17 April 2015 1:55 am

BBC debate: The leaders’ debate had a surpise winner… according to social media

Twitter exploded during the BBC challengers' debate (Source: Twitter)

The five party leaders battled it out yesterday evening in a hotly contested debate designed to rouse support ahead of the General Election – now just 19 days away.

Labour leader Ed Miliband emerged triumphant from the debate according to the polling data immediately after, with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon the runner up.

But it was a slightly different story on social media.

Female leaders won the day

Leanne Wood, the leader of Welsh party Plaid Cymru, garnered the most positive sentiment from audiences across Twitter, Facebook, news sites and forums, with 76 per cent of social conversation about her being positive.

Nicola Sturgeon, who emerged as the biggest winner on Facebook after the previous debate, followed closely behind, with 68 per cent positive chatter. She also picked up the most positive sentiment as the debate progressed, according to Brandwatch's General Election tracking.

She was followed by Green party leader Natalie Bennett, who gave a much better performance than in previous media appearances, while wannabe Prime Minister Ed Miliband lagged behind in fourth – although positive sentiment at 43 per cent was undermined by 58 per cent negative sentiment.

Leaving a Conservative-shaped hole in the debate line up, David Cameron was left with overwhelmingly negative sentiment of 81 per cent.

Which leader won the BBC election debate on social media?

Miliband grabbed the lion's share of conversations during the debate, compared with Wood who created the least chatter, despite coming out on top in terms of sentiment.

Sturgeon and Ukip leader Nigel Farage followed closely behind, while even absentee Cameron managed to get tongues wagging.

Here's how the online world discussed each leader through the evening.

Female led parties also won the day

The success of the three female leaders translated into positivity towards their parties, with the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens gaining the most positivity and more positive than negative sentiment.

Negative conversation overtook social media chatter for the remaining parties – however, Labour came out ahead of the Conservatives, Ukip and the Lib Dems. 

And here's how the online world discussed the parties through the course of the debate.

Meanwhile, when it comes to policies, immigration, housing and the NHS were the hot topics of the night, despite the NHS not being one of the topics planned for discussion.