The Trail

“Most Popular”: A Tale of Three Front-Runners

As the campaign trail heats up, we took a look at nationwide polling, online engagement, and FEC fundraising filings to see how candidates compare across three key metrics—and we’re starting to get a clearer picture.

As the 2020 Democratic presidential field continues to shrink, we took a look at candidates’ performances across three key metrics: polling, social media engagement, and fundraising.

In the first two categories, all five candidates are ranked in the same order. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) takes a particularly strong lead when it comes to average retweets, with over double the amount of his next closest opponent—4,686 to former Vice President Joe Biden’s 1,966.

When it comes to fundraising, the remaining billionaire, self-funding former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, cinches a clear lead, with over $200 million in contributions. That’s twice more than Sanders, who comes in second with over $109 million, but whose campaign is funded largely by individual contributions under $200.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) came in a consistent fourth in polling and average retweets, but edged out Biden for total contributions.

With voters in 14 states making their choices tomorrow, we’ll be watching to see if their votes line up accordingly.

The Trail

“Most Mentioned”: Who is Trump’s Achilles Heel?

Here at The Conversation, we spend a lot of time studying the President’s tweets. We analyzed how, and how much, he discussed the 2020 candidates during the month of February. The goal? To try and figure out who he feels poses the greatest risk.

Over the month of February, we analyzed the number of times President Donald Trump mentioned 2020 Democratic candidates to see who is—and isn’t—at the top of his mind.

The result? Trump loves to insult former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who he also calls “Mini Mike,” during his performance in the February 19th debate in Las Vegas, calling him a “pathetic debater” and “stumbling, bumbling and grossly incompetent.”

In contrast, although Trump has previously tweeted frequently about “Crazy Bernie” in the context of Russia, his tenor towards Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been different lately. A recent tweet: “Congratulations Bernie, & don’t let them take [the Nevada caucuses] away from you!

On the opposite end of the mention spectrum, Trump only tweeted about Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) four times during the month of February.

Does Pres. Trump’s encouragement of Sanders mean he views him as less of a threat to his reelection bid than Bloomberg? Does largely ignoring Warren mean that he views her as the smallest threat—or the biggest? Only time will tell.

The Trail

“Most Followed”: Follower Growth by Debate

After each Democratic primary debate, who grew their followers the most?

For some candidates, exciting or unexpected debate performances can drive online follower counts. We took a look at how the debates have played out online through follower growth.

Of the remaining candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has seen the most follower growth of any Democratic candidate following each of the seven debates. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was a steady second.

Since he began qualifying for debates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has replaced Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) in third place when it comes to follower growth rankings, as she has not qualified for recent debates.

Perhaps most surprising is former Vice President Joe Biden’s low rankings, which do not reflect his high polling performance.

Could follower growth rankings signify waxing or waning enthusiasm for certain candidates? With 1,357 delegates at stake tomorrow, we’ll soon find out.

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.