The Trail

Twitter Feed, Twitter Feed on the Wall, Who’s The Most Popular of Them All?

Over the month of January, former Vice President Joe Biden took the lead for most mentions by journalists. But the candidate mentions in the broader Twitter universe tell a very different story.

As primary season heats up, Democratic candidates are fighting to be heard on all platforms. So The Conversation took a look at which candidates’ handles Twitter users and political journalists were mentioning most.

During the first month of 2020, Washington, D.C. journalists and pundits mentioned the Twitter handles of Former Vice President Joe Biden; former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg the most. Other than Biden’s peak in early January, pushing him to the top of the list, candidates’ Twitter handle mentions all had peaks and troughs, with slight differences in volume.

But candidates’ handle mentions from users across the wider Twitter universe told a very different story. Twitter users at large mentioned Sanders the most, 4.3 million more times than Biden, the most mentioned candidate among journalists. In a surprise twist, entrepreneur Andrew Yang was the third-most mentioned candidate overall, with two million mentions—despite not making it into the journalists’ top five. And Bloomberg, the fifth-most mentioned candidate by D.C. journalists and pundits, couldn’t crack the top five overall.

What does the chasm between D.C. journalists and pundits’ and Twitter users’ mentions say about candidates’ popularity? Tonight, we’ll start to find out.

The Trail

DC State of Mind

Between impeachment, coronavirus, and Iran, there’s been no shortage of news in January. But who’s talking about what? Our analysis of tweets from 2020 Democratic presidential candidates and D.C. journalists and pundits is telling.

As the first caucuses and primaries of the 2020 presidential election approach, The Conversation looked at…the conversation on Twitter among presidential candidates and Washington, D.C. journalists and pundits. In comparing their top terms, we found that candidates are much more focused on the campaign trail than D.C. journalists and pundits—though both mention Trump most of all.

Between January 1-27, Democratic hopefuls were focused on campaign milestones, frequently using terms including “Iowa,” “DemDebate,” “New Hampshire,” and “2020.” The candidates often mention President Trump in discussing how they will beat him.

Meanwhile, D.C. journalists and pundits are clearly spending most of their time talking about impeachment, overwhelmingly mentioning terms such as “Senate,” “Ukraine,” “Bolton,” “House,” and of course, Trump himself—over 3,000 times. And if you compare that to the top topics of Trump’s campaign ads—the media, immigration, impeachment, and the economy—there is little overlap.

As voting starts, will media attention turn increasingly towards the Democratic campaign trail—or will Trump continue to dominate the headlines? We’ll be watching.

The Trail

The Iowa Leaderboard

Heading into the Iowa Caucuses, we took a look at nationwide polling, online engagement, and FEC fundraising filings—and all three told us different things.

As Iowans prepare to make their voices heard, we took a look at candidate performances across three key metrics: polling, social media engagement, and fundraising.

In the first two of these categories, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) exchange the top three spots. But when it comes to average retweets, Sanders outdoes his next closest competitor twofold. And businessman Andrew Yang and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), following not too far behind, are neck and neck in both categories.

But when it comes to fundraising, the calculus changes. Self-funding billionaires, businessman Tom Steyer and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have reported nearly twice the funds of Sanders, their next closest competitor, although the largest portion of Sanders’ war chest has come from small individual contributions less than $200. And President Trump has raised more than all of the Democratic candidates besides Steyer and Bloomberg for a total of $143 million.

Also of note: Yang and Klobuchar saw the largest change from their Q3 fundraising, raising 65% and 138% more than the previous filing.

As Americans begin to cast their primary votes, which of these metrics will matter most? We’re about to start finding out.

The Trail

Amy Klobuchar: From Underdog to Top Dog?

In a twist, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) snagged the title for most words spoken amongst all candidates at last night’s debate.

Over the course of the six Democratic debates so far, some patterns have emerged in candidate talk time.

The October and November debates saw a steady cluster of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), former Vice President Joe Biden, and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg taking the lead in words spoken over the other candidates. But last night’s debate stopped that trend in its tracks. In an unforeseen breakaway, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) rocketed to top talker for the December debate.

Despite not having made the top three for any of the prior debates, Klobuchar got in 3,439 words—a 118% increase from the July debate, where she spoke the least. And the words she spoke mattered—several news outlets, including CNN, The New York Times and POLITICO, deemed her a debate winner.

Could this indicate a change in the tide on the eve of the first primaries? We’ll continue to watch.

The Trail

Long Live the Yang Gang

After Andrew Yang gained the most followers during the December Democratic Debate, extending his reign as the King of New Followers for the third debate in a row, we’re seeing that his tweets throughout the debate—plus an unexpected partnership—have caught the eye of the country.

During the December Democratic Debate, Presidential candidate Andrew Yang swept the competition in followers gained on Twitter. The entrepreneur gained 8,622 followers from 7:00 pm EST on Dec. 19 to 12:00 am EST on December 20—over double the followers gained by his next-closest competitor, Senator Amy Klobuchar, who gained 3,378 followers in the same time period.

While Klobuchar’s gain is notable as well, Yang spoke about half as many words as she did during the debate, less than any other candidate. So, what gives?

During the day of the debate, Yang tweeted 24 times and received over 58,000 retweets. And his top tweets during the debate, which dug into the issues, got even bigger play, including one which featured a video of him discussing how he was the only candidate of color on the debate stage. This tweet sparked discussions of race on Twitter throughout the night, with Yang supporters applauding him for staying in the presidential race. Other top tweets discuss vulnerable communities, women’s rights and the GDP.

In addition, Yang’s campaign announced on December 19 that actor and singer Donald Glover will be joining the campaign as a Creative Consultant, which gained traction on Twitter from news outlets, political analysts and Yang fans alike.

Will Yang’s Twitter popularity translate to votes in the primaries? Only time will tell.

The Trail

Campaign 2019 By The Numbers

As we head into 2020 and approach the presidential campaign’s first primaries, where do the candidates stand across three metrics: public opinion, social media engagement and funding? We took one last look in 2019.

On the heels of last night’s debate and as we close out the 2019 portion of the 2020 presidential campaign, The Conversation took one final look at three metrics of campaign performance to see where the candidates stand: Polling, average retweets and FEC-reported contributions.

From Nov. 1 to Dec. 19, The poll tracked the candidates registered voters are most likely to vote for in a Democratic primary. We also looked at the candidates’ average number of retweets over the same time period, and fundraising contributions as of their last update on Sept. 30 (when Senator Kamala Harris, D-CA, was still in the race).

The result? Of the three generally agreed-upon frontrunners—Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)—Sanders has a clear lead in average retweets and contributions, with Biden dominating the polls.

But looking at the runners-up in each category, things get more interesting. When it comes to campaign coffers, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. snagged third place, substantially outraising Biden. And Buttigieg beat out Warren for average retweets, coming close to second-place Biden and trailed by former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro.

With some contenders hitting their stride for the first time in last night’s debate, how might these categories shift in the new year? Here at The Conversation, you can bet we’ll be watching.

The Trail

The Gift of Gab: The Debate’s Top Talkers

For the second debate in a row, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg were the most talkative. Could this indicate some stability in their frontrunner status?

Over the last two debates, the three most loquacious candidates have been Sen. Warren (D-Mass.), former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Buttigieg in first, second, and third places, respectively.

Despite maintaining her top speaker status, Warren’s total word count dropped from 3,627 words in the October debate to 2,402 words last night. One possible contributor? The other candidates on the stage backed off their questioning of her proposed policies, such as Medicare for All.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, entrepreneur Andrew Yang spoke the fewest words last night – only 1,267 words, 47% less than frontrunner Warren. This did not go unnoticed by his supporters on Twitter, prompting negative reactions and the trending hashtag #LetYangSpeak.

One notable absence from the top three top speakers during the last five debates: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whom pundits have regularly called out as one of the frontrunners.

The Trail

Polling, Twitter and Funding, Oh My

Last night’s debate is one metric for judging the Democratic presidential candidates, but we looked at a few others as well: How the candidates are performing in the polls, on Twitter and in fundraising.

As the media and pundits discuss who “won” last night’s Democratic Debate, we took a look at a few other voter support metrics: polling, retweets and fundraising contributions.

From Oct. 1 to Nov. 13, The poll tracked who registered voters are most likely to vote for in a Democratic primary. We also looked at the candidates’ average number of retweets over the same time period, and fundraising contributions through Oct. 31.

Spoiler alert: It’s hard to master everything.

Former Vice President Biden continues to top the polls, at 34.50%, comes in second in average retweets at 2,150 (up from fourth last month), but comes in fifth in fundraising contributions. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) topped both the Twitter engagement rankings with an average of 3,892 retweets per tweet and fundraising with $74.5 million in contributions, but trails Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the polls.

Interestingly, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) came in a close fourth in Twitter engagement, with 1,825 retweets per tweet, but failed to break the top 10 in polling or fundraising.

So what does it all mean? We’ll keep monitoring social media engagement, polling and fundraising to gain insights into the election frontrunners.

The Trail

President Who?

While every candidate on last night’s debate stage mentioned President Trump by name at least once, those mentions dropped by 40% from last month’s debate. Could this indicate a change in focus – differentiating themselves from one another, rather than Trump?

Despite the timely impeachment hearings, the Democratic presidential candidates’ mentions of President Trump by name (“Trump” or “Donald”) dropped by 40% from the October debate, perhaps an indication that the candidates are focusing on distinguishing themselves from others on the stage as opposed to the president.

Despite the lower overall mentions, each candidate on the stage last night mentioned the sitting president by name at least once.

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) mentioned Trump the most of all candidates last night – nine times. Just two months ago, in the September debate, Buttigieg mentioned Trump the least of all candidates. Is this a new strategy to demonstrate Buttigieg’s readiness to spar with Trump?

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is a consistent Trump talker. Of all the candidates, Harris mentioned the president the most in the September and October debates, and had the second-highest mentions – tied with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) – last night.

The Trail

Yang Quiet During Debate, Loud on Twitter

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang gained the most Twitter followers during last night’s debate, even though he had the least amount of speaking time on the debate stage.

When it comes to Twitter follower gains, the clear winners of the November Democratic Debate were entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who gained 4,152 followers from 5:00 pm EST on Nov. 20 to 12:00 am EST on Nov. 21, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who gained 3,834 followers during the same time period. So what caused these two candidates to stand out from the pack?

In the leadup to the debate, Sanders received a jolt in new followers due to a tweet from an unexpected supporter – Ariana Grande. The singer, who has more than 67 million followers, tweeted at 3:55 pm EST about Sanders attending her show and how she and HeadCount, an organization created to engage music fans in politics, wanted to make him proud.

Meanwhile, Sanders at 5:33 pm EST responded to a CNBC tweet about America’s spending on wars since 2001 by asking, “How are you going to pay for that?” His tweet received more than 26,000 retweets and stirred up his follower base in anticipation of the debate.

Sanders tweeted a total of 15 times on during and following the debate on Nov. 20, receiving an average of around 2,000 retweets per tweet.

Meanwhile Yang, who edged out Sanders for the biggest follower growth, tweeted a total of 21 times during and following the debate, receiving an average of nearly 1,500 retweets per tweet.

An intriguing aspect of Yang’s Twitter follower growth is that the entrepreneur spoke the least during the debate, with just 1,267 words. In comparison, Sanders spoke 1,799 words during last night’s debate, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) spoke the most, at 2,402 words.

But Yang used his limited speaking time to his advantage, getting a boost in engagement between 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm EST in reaction to his tweets about not receiving the speaking time that he deserves, which gained traction from his followers, with the hashtag #LetYangSpeak being used nearly 8,000 times.

Also worth noting – before the debate, at 7:46 pm EST, Yang tweeted, “I miss Beto,” which garnered over 2,500 retweets, possibly in attempt to gain the attention of Beto O’Rourke’s supporters.