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.

The Trail

The #YangGang Gets Even Stronger

Businessman Andrew Yang saw the biggest follower spike on Twitter during the Democratic Presidential debate. But can the #YangGang help Yang compete with the current front-runners?

For the second debate in a row, businessman Andrew Yang had a strong night on Twitter, gaining the most followers of anyone else on the stage. Yang gained nearly 5,000 followers in the three-hour span, bringing his total follower count to more than 945,000.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) came in second with 4,100 new followers, bringing her total to 3.4 million, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) – who has the most Twitter followers of any Democratic candidate at 9.8 million – nabbed another 2,944 new followers during the debate.

At the bottom of the pack? Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and billionaire Tom Steyer, who gained 765 and 844 new followers, respectively.

Will these spikes in Twitter followers be indicative of post-debate momentum? Only time will tell.

The Trail

Were Trump’s Ears Burning Last Night?

Once again, President Donald Trump was the most-mentioned person on last night’s debate stage. Mentions of former President Barack Obama dropped significantly from last month, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren appeared to be in the hot seat … or podium.

Much like last month’s debate, President Donald Trump was the most-mentioned individual during Tuesday night’s Democratic debate in Westerville, Ohio.

President Donald Trump was mentioned a total of 67 times by all 12 candidates on the stage. The president was mentioned more than everyone else in the top 10 combined.

After Trump, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), was the second-most discussed person, with a total of 19 mentions by nine different candidates, likely the result of her being seen as a new front-runner.

The Trail

Who Leads the Polls … and Twitter

As the country digests last night’s Democratic debate, we took a look at how the candidates are performing in the polls … and on Twitter. Spoiler alert: They tell two very different stories.

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

From Sept. 1 to Oct. 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. Spoiler alert: They tell two very different stories.

Former Vice President Biden tops the poll, at 30.08%, but comes in fourth in average retweets (1,935). On the other hand, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) topped the Twitter engagement list with an average of 2,819 retweets per tweet but came in 6th in polling, with just 2.96% of registered voters saying they are most likely to vote for him in the Democratic primary.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was the only candidate to land in the top three in polling and average retweets, nabbing second in both.

Is social media engagement an early indicator of election-day votes? Or, is traditional polling still our best bet for predicting election results? We’ll be watching.

The Trail

Two Tales of the Democratic Frontrunners

Former Vice President Joe Biden has held on to a comfortable lead in the polls for the last six weeks, but Twitter tells a different story. Could it indicate a changing tide?

As we inch closer to the 2020 Democratic primaries, all eyes have understandably been on the latest polling numbers. But is that the only indicator of how the candidates are performing?

The poll tracks who registered voters are most likely to vote for in a Democratic primary. From Aug. 1 to Sept. 12, former Vice President Biden nabbed 30.52% of the vote, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at 16.93% and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) at 12.68%.

But Twitter tells a different story. During that same time period, front-runner Biden came in sixth in terms of average retweets, a common metric for social media engagement, with an average of 1,147 retweets per tweet. Meanwhile, Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) topped the Twitter list with an average of 3,433 retweets per tweet but came in middle of the pack (6th) in polling, garnering just 3.23% of the vote.

Taking a look at polling and retweets by rank over time offers another interesting perspective. The top four polling candidates – Biden, Sanders, Warren and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) – have stayed in their respective spots for the last six weeks. However, Twitter appears to catch more of the ebbs and flows of the presidential hopefuls’ popularity.

We’ll be watching to see if Twitter engagement ends up being an early indicator in changes in voter preferences.

The Trail

What Does Debate Speaking Time Mean for Twitter Follower Growth?

Turns out camera time during the Democratic debate may not translate to popularity growth – at least on Twitter. Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke the most during last Thursday’s debate, but ranked seventh in Twitter follower growth.

We’ve become accustomed to seeing the presidential candidates jockeying for airtime, and the third Democratic debate was no exception. But it turns out camera time may not matter so much when it comes to gaining voter popularity – at least on Twitter.

Front runner former Vice President Joe Biden spoke the most during last Thursday’s debate, with 3,392 words. That’s 609 words more than the next most-talkative candidate, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). However, Biden came in a distant 7th in terms of Twitter follower growth, nabbing just 8,557 new followers since the debate on Sept. 12.

On the other end of the spectrum, businessman Andrew Yang spoke the least during the debate – 50% less than Biden – but managed to nab nearly 40,000 new Twitter followers. Yang’s promise to give 10 families $1,000 a month for a year may have had something to do with his surging popularity online.

Similarly to Yang, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) spoke the second least but had the third highest growth in Twitter followers.

The Trail

Say My Name, Say My Name

Who merited the most mentions during last week’s presidential debate? The results—which highlight the differences in candidates’ strategic approaches—may surprise you.

There were 10 candidates participating in the Democratic primary debate in Houston, Texas, last Thursday, but the two individuals mentioned most weren’t on stage.

Candidates invoked President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama more than any other individuals, including the entire 2020 Democratic presidential field.

These mentions tell an interesting story about debate strategy. Eight of the 10 candidates mentioned President Trump, with the exception of Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). In fact, Sanders didn’t mention Obama either. Instead, he focused on the other candidates on stage, in a marked contrast to his competition.

On the other end of the spectrum, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) mentioned Trump more than any other candidate—a total of 10 times. Occasionally, she even stared directly into the camera to speak to the President.

We’ll be watching to see which of these strategies work for the candidates going forward.

The Trail

What Twitter Tells Us Going Into This Week’s Debates

Ahead of this week’s Democratic debates, we took a look at how the candidates stack up in terms of their podium placement and Twitter engagement across the two nights of debates.

The second round of Democratic debates, hosted by CNN, are taking place this week. The 20 candidates who qualified were split into two groups – Tuesday and Wednesday nights – and podium placement was determined by public polling numbers.

We took a look at the debate groups and podium placement based on Twitter engagement, i.e. average favorites and retweets, to see how the candidates stack up.

Of the night one candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had the highest Twitter engagement, matching their center stage placement.

However, on night two, former Vice President Joe Biden nabbed one of the two center spots on stage, but he comes in fourth in Twitter engagement, after Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), businessman Andrew Yang and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).

Another outlier on night two? Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) will stand at the end of the stage. But his Twitter engagement last week was higher than Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D).

Will Twitter engagement be indicative of debate performance? We’ll be watching.