Democratic debates 2020: Social Media analysis
We live in the times when the role of social media in politics is not even debatable. This is where people voice their beliefs, read the opinions of others, create echo chambers, change views, follow the news, make the decisions who to vote for. That's one thing.
The other one is this: the past couple of years showed that polls and official media are not that good in predicting the outcomes of elections. The election of Donald Trump in 2016 was a shock for too many, and so was the decision of the British people to leave the EU. Some journalists made very logical arguments on why both of these things won't happen - just before they did.
To me, it is obvious that we have to do some kind of social media research if we want to know how things will turn out. We have to observe what people say on Reddit and Twitter, who they talk about more, what sentiment is behind their talk, and even what political memes they create.
So that's what we did with Awario. We took the most popular Democratic candidates and monitored the conversations about them on social media channels, news sites, blogs, and forums before and after the second debates.
Here's what we found:
Joe Biden (161.5K mentions)
The former vice president is the obvious frontrunner of the debates, despite the countless criticism he gets for being awkward, not sharp rhetorically, and not good in defending his former policies. His second debates definitely went better than the first ones, and we can see the reaction to that on social media.
The difference between positive and negative sentiment increased, and the number of neutral mentions increased as well. This reaction is in line with what the major news sites say: even though Biden's performance on the second debate wasn't excellent, it was better than the first one and "good enough" to keep him in the lead.
The topic cloud also gives us some idea of what people say about Joe Biden.
Firstly, of course, other candidates are often mentioned alongside, especially his primary attacker on the first debate Kamala Harris, as well as his other popular rivals: Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. His major advantage is his connection to Obama, so you can see "Obama" as a keyword associated with Biden. The word "better" also stands out: apparently, social media believes Biden got better. However, you also can't miss "race", "racist", "black" that represent the view of Biden as a possible racist, and the word "old", which turns out to be another common critique for the candidate - his age is perceived as a serious weakness.
Elizabeth Warren (136.5K mentions)
The Massachusetts senator not only continues to outpace her competitors on policy, but also attracts a lot of conversation online, most of which is positive.
The topic cloud shows that she's associated with Bernie Sanders very closely and that the hashtag #warren2020 is much more popular than the frontrunner's #biden2020. You can also spot the words "love" and "great" - something we don't see being said about the former VP. And finally, people say "president" a lot when they talk about Ms. Warren. Coincidence?
Kamala Harris (144.4K mentions)
Harris shined during the first debate, fiercely attacking Biden and earning herself much of the talk online. However, while she dominated the first debate, the second one is believed to have gone worse for her. She found herself under constant attack of the opponents and spent much of the time defending herself. You can see the reflection of this dynamic in the conversations online.
Her topic cloud is less populated than the previous ones: people mostly discuss her debates with Biden. The word "president" also catches the attention, just like it did with Elizabeth Warren.
Bernie Sanders (178K mentions)
Bernie Sanders is still a force to be dealt with in 2020. No longer a single lefty, he remains to be popular and talked about. The talk is also significantly more positive than negative, which can't be said about Harris or Biden. Warren and Bernie, a power couple that might be winning the hearts of social media users.
Bernie's topic cloud is also full of hope, support, and hashtags. We can see much talk about health, due to, of course, his promised healthcare policies. It's also the only topic cloud that remembers Hillary and gives me a nostalgic feeling.
Pete Buttigieg (98.6K mentions)
There's much less talk about Pete compared to the number of conversations around previous candidates. It's more positive than negative, but let's face it - seems like social media just doesn't care enough for the mayor.
The topic cloud shows that people really care about the fact that Buttigieg is a mayor, though. Also, his rivals Harris, Biden, and Sanders are right there.
Cory Booker (62.5K mentions)
Even fewer people talk about Cory Booker. Moreover, despite his speeches about love and unity, the feelings are not mutual: a lot of the talk about Cory Booker is negative.
The topic cloud shows how much people talk about Booker's proposition of giving illegal immigrants access to free healthcare and ending border crisis. Words like "illegal", "immigration", "Mexico", "border" dominate the conversation around one of the most liberal candidates.
Julián Castro (39K mentions)
The number of conversations around Castro peaked recently but still didn't get anywhere close to the online buzz that his rivals create.
He definitely has some support, but not enough to be a promising candidate.
Amy Klobuchar (56K mentions)
The Minnesota senator also isn't a popular figure on social media even though she's bigger than Castro.
The conversation around her mainly involves her rivals and other politicians from Minnesota.
Beto O’Rourke (90.1K mentions)
Bero O'Rourke seems to be quite popular on social media, despite all the laybacks he's had with his campaign and funding.
Surprisingly, he also has a lot going for him in terms of hashtags. Look at this overwhelming support!
Jay Inslee (35.6K mentions)
Jay Inslee, the only candidate that talked a lot about climate change and proposed a number of ways to fight it and save the planet, doesn't get much support on social media. He even received a spike of negative mentions in mid-July.
Fittingly, his topic cloud is also overwhelmingly about climate change.
Tulsi Gabbard (75.4K mentions)
An Iraq war vet and the first Hindu to serve in the House of Representatives, she's an interesting enough character to make social media talk. She criticized Harris a lot for her record and has the word "actually" associated with her quite a lot for some reason.
Kirsten Gillibrand (59.6K mentions)
Highly controversial Kirsten that presents herself as the "fearless girl" of the Democrats is the only member of this list who generates mostly negative buzz online (although, this seems to be changing). The negativity might be caused by her claiming to be the first candidate to speak up when it comes to the issues most important to women. This is arguable, to say the least. She has also promised to appoint only pro-choice judges.
Her topic cloud represents women. The words "privilege", "race", "white" stand out - this might be because of her anti-immigrant past that she has since apologized for.
Andrew Yang (94K mentions)
Andrew Yang that "came from the Internet" is loved by the Internet. His campaign became cultivated meme-warrior members of the #YangGang. He didn't do well in the first debate, and the Internet's opinion about him kept jumping. The second one seems to have cleared that up: we can see the number of positive mentions increasing rapidly.
The support and opinions of the people online are clearly seen in the topic cloud.
This is it, these were all the candidates we've monitored. Anyone else you want to see analyzed? Any candidate you expect to win? Any social media results that were unexpected? Let me know in the comments!