Ideal point models have become a powerful tool for defining and measuring the ideology of many kinds of political actors, including legislators, judges, campaign donors, and members of the general public. We extend the application of ideal point models to the public using a novel data source: real-time reactions to statements by candidates in the 2012 presidential debates. Using these reactions as inputs to an ideal point model, we estimate individual-level ideology and evaluate the quality of the measure. Debate reaction ideal points provide a method for estimating a continuous, individual-level measure of ideology that avoids survey response biases, provides better estimates for moderates and the politically unengaged, and reflects the content of salient political discourse relevant to viewers’ attitudes and vote choices. As expected, we find that debate reaction ideal points are more extreme among respondents who strongly identify with a political party, but retain substantial within-party variation. Ideal points are also more extreme among respondents who are more politically interested. Using topical subsets of the debate statements, we find that ideal points in the sample are more moderate for foreign policy than for economic or domestic policy.