Twitter is a special place during election time when all the politics of well, politics, seeps into social media. It can be a great place to discuss the issues, or it can devolve into a back-and-forth of petty comments.

And that’s just talking about the candidates!

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But when they’re at the podium for debate night, we the people take on the commentary responsibilities. We all become Anderson Cooper.

Now that monitoring is on my brain 24/7, during the last debates I was kicking myself for not setting up alerts to monitor candidates.

I wanted to go beyond the what and to the why. I wanted to know the connection between debate performance and how the candidate is talked about on social.

Well, I’m not smart enough to definitively answer that, but I wanted to see that data and venture some guesses. And I’m sure other marketing and data nerds do, too.

So today we’re sharing some interesting social trends we noticed during the first democratic debate this week.

Lincoln Chafee


One of the lesser-known candidates standing at the edge of the stage, Lincoln Chafee definitely benefited from increased visibility on debate day.

In the week prior to the debate, the former governor from Rhode Island was averaging between 300 and 400 mentions (either by @handle or by name) per day. Compare that to yesterday’s 3,500+.

Still, he didn’t have the most mic time during the debate, and that shows in the social media conversations. In terms of other things discussed in the Chafee mentions, they usually discussed another candidate as well.

Hillary Clinton

One of the frontrunners and definitely the most well-known candidate (I mean, she’s no stranger to the White House at all), Hillary’s mentions look a little different than the rest. (Hey, she did say during the debate that she stands out.)


She was being mentioned like crazy leading up to the debate, as one of the most visible candidates of the primaries. Perhaps because of that, her name and handle saw a pretty small increase in Twitter mentions the day of the debate.

What’s responsible for that? It’s fun to hypothesize. Maybe with other candidates getting more coverage in the media, people were focusing less on her while learning and talking more about her opponents. Maybe the same people were talking about her before and during the debate, and what they were saying just changed.

So, what were they saying? With the coverage she’s been getting in the press, it can be easy to guess a few.


You can see that people are talking about her in relation to other popular candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. And you also see people bringing up the Benghazi attack in 2012, her hubbie, and the email scandal that Bernie’s tired of talking about.

Martin O’Malley

Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland, has been a pretty recognizable candidate up until now but is far from being “everywhere.” Going from less than 1,000 Twitter mentions per day to about 4,000, he falls into the middle both in terms of overall Twitter mentions and increase in buzz on debate day.


Bernie Sanders


The Vermont senator, who we can probably agree is the 2nd most popular Dem in the running right now, had a “problem” similar to Hillary’s he’s already so popular. So there wasn’t much of an increase.

In terms of topics, people are definitely talking about how he considers himself a democratic socialist, and his stance on gun control.

Off-stage stage politics

Obviously, the stars of the debate were the democratic candidates. But there are a few people we can’t help but take a look at, since the debate should have an impact on their social mentions, as well.

First, we’ll look at republican candidates Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee. They both livetweeted the democratic debate, responding to viewers and sharing their own opinions. Since they were so active there during the debate, we decided to take a look at how that helped or hurt.

Then, let’s consider Joe Biden. Current VP, everyone expected him to run for a “promotion.” He’s said he’s not running, but tons of people are still expecting him to declare candidacy.

Donald Trump

Never one to hide his opinion, it’s not a surprise Donald Trump livetweeted the debate. He tweeted a mix of his own reactions to the candidates’ comments, and conversational tweets with his supporters and other critiquing the debate.

In terms of having his voice heard, he had the chance to respond to what candidates were saying on TV, sometimes about him.

But how did it change how people were talking about him?


He actually had less mentions on Twitter on debate day than in the few days prior. Most of the popular keywords people were using with his name weren’t related to the debate specifically, except for an infrequent “Vegas” mention. In terms of sentiment analysis, there was no significant shift in how positively or negatively he was discussed, either.

Mike Huckabee

On the other hand, livetweeting was great for Mike Huckabee’s “buzzbuilding.” Though he still has less mentions overall than Trump, you can see that his activity on debate day helped his number of Twitter mentions triple what he was seeing the previous few days.


But is all press good press? Some of the more frequently used keywords in the topic cloud suggest that people talking about him aren’t planning on voting for him.

Joe Biden

With the deadline for his decision so close, the VP’s name has been gaining in popularity recently anyway. You can see it’s on a pretty impressive upward trend this week:


Looking at the topics cloud for his alert, I notice something interesting: there are no keywords really related to his current job as VP, people are talking much more about his possibly maybe future job.


And I love that because Twitter is a wonderfully random place, an unused podium was popular enough to make it onto Biden’s topic cloud.

Stay tuned

Interested in how the election can be monitored and analyzed? This is the first post in what will be a series looking at different election trends in the media and on social. If there’s something you want data on, share a comment below and we’ll take a look for a future post!

Brittany Berger is a content marketer helping B2B companies and entrepreneurs create unicorn content that shows personality and demands attention. Connect with her on Twitter at @thatbberg.

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