Over the last two nights, 20 Democratic hopefuls took to the debate stage in Miami to make their case to the American public. 

Following the same format we used in our debates preview blog, we examined more than 2.1 million mentions related to the Democratic debates over the last two days, again analyzing the data through our main lenses of 1) The Candidates, 2) The Media and 3) The Supporters. 

To ensure we presented the most accurate picture of the nights’ proceedings, we broke down each lens into Night One, Night Two and the combined Night One + Night Two views.

Here’s how the Internet reacted to the first two Democratic debates.

The Candidates

In our preview blog, we examined Share of Voice (SOV) for each candidate in the week leading up to the debates. Let’s take a look at how those numbers changed after the debates.

Night One SOV

SOV numbers for each candidate are as follows: Elizabeth Warren: 30%; Cory Booker 15%; Julián Castro: 13%; Beto O’Rourke: 10%; Tulsi Gabbard: 8%; Tim Ryan 6%; Amy Klobuchar: 5%; Bill de Blasio: 5%; Jay Inslee 5%; and John Delaney: 3%.

Elizabeth Warren retained her top spot, likely due to her strong performance during the economic portion of the debate. She did, however, lose 20% from her pre-debate SOV to the other standouts of the night, particularly Julián Castro, who went from 3% SOV ahead of the debate to 13% SOV following his breakout performance around immigration policy. All of the other contenders shifted modestly, by 5% or less.

Night Two SOV

SOV numbers for each candidate are as follows: Kamala Harris: 32%; Joe Biden 17%; Bernie Sanders: 13%; Marianne Williamson 12%; Pete Buttigieg: 10%; Andrew Yang: 8%; Eric Swalwell: 4%; Kirsten Gillibrand: 3%; John Hickenlooper: 1% and Michael Bennet 1%.

In our pre-debate look at SOV, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden together claimed more than 60% SOV amongst all candidates. After yesterday’s debate, Kamala Harris, who quickly became the standout candidate of the night by clearly and articulately laying out her vision for America, jumped up to the top spot with 32% SOV. After his opponents used his long and sometimes controversial record to put him on the backfoot, Joe Biden saw a corresponding drop in SOV, to 17%. 

Defending his well-known stances without much flare, Bernie Sanders also lost a significant amount of SOV, dropping to third overall. Other candidates moved modestly, with the exception of Marianne Williamson, whose relative obscurity and alternative takes on many issues during the debate likely got people talking.

Night One + Night Two SOV

SOV numbers for each candidate are as follows: Elizabeth Warren: 17%; Kamala Harris: 12%; Bernie Sanders: 10%; Joe Biden 9%; Julián Castro: 7%; Cory Booker 7%; Beto O’Rourke: 6%; Tulsi Gabbard: 5%; Marianne Williamson 4%; Pete Buttigieg: 4%; Andrew Yang: 4%; Bill de Blasio: 3%; Tim Ryan 2%; Amy Klobuchar: 2%; Jay Inslee 2%; Eric Swalwell: 2%; Kirsten Gillibrand: 1%; John Delaney: 1%; John Hickenlooper: 1%.; and Michael Bennet 0%.

While Night One candidates have a slight advantage in this view, given the time range of data analyzed here, we still see a mix of old and new, Night One and Night Two. Most of the top-polling candidates, such as Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker all make it into the top ten. Breakout stars from both nights, Kamala Harris and Julián Castro, also make it into the top ten, along with Marianne Williamson. Other lesser-talked-about candidates, who made modest movements up and down, round out the group of twenty.

The Media

In our preview blog, debate primer pieces from NBC reigned supreme across the Internet, along with various supporter/cause websites and a couple of opinion pieces. 

Here’s a look at which five news articles held sway over the Internet during and after each debate.

Night One 

  1. 1st Democratic Primary Debate: Live Analysis | NPR
  2. Who talked most during the Democratic debate | The Washington Post
  3. Democratic Debate: Immigration dominates 1st night of debate as candidates split | ABC News
  4. Tusli 2020 | tulsi2020.com
  5. Small-business confidence hits record high in 2018 after Trump tax-reform win | CNBC 

Even though she only captured 8% SOV in her group of candidates, Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign website made into the top five articles of the night. Other popular articles included live analysis pieces from NPR, The Washington Post and ABC News, as well as an economically-focused piece published in February 2018 by CNBC, likely shared in relation to the debate’s discussion around the current state of small business in America. 

Night Two

  1. Overwhelmed federal officials released immigrant teens to traffickers in 2014 | The Washington Post 
  2. Here Are The Photos Of Obama’s Illegal Immigrant Detention Facilities The Media Won’t Show You | The Daily Caller
  3. Democratic Debate Live Updates and Analysis: Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders, Harris faced off on 2nd night | ABC News
  4. How Mitch McConnell became a bigger villain in first Democratic Debate than Trump | Raw Story
  5. Live Analysis And Fact Check: Night 2 Of The Democratic Primary Debate | NPR

The top two articles of the night, likely powered by President Trump’s communications team, address the state of the immigration crisis when former Vice President Joe Biden (who took the debate stage Night Two) was in office. Other articles include two live analysis pieces and a story on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s stalwart position on incoming legislation.

Night One + Night Two

  1. Drudge instant poll shows Gabbard winning first Democratic debate in landslide | The Hill
  2. How Mitch McConnell became a bigger villain in first Democratic Debate than Trump | Raw Story
  3. Tusli 2020 | tulsi2020.com
  4. What Went Down On Night One Of The First Democratic Debates | FiveThirtyEight
  5. 1st Democratic Primary Debate: Live Analysis | NPR

Slightly biased to stories from Night One, given that they had a longer time period to build up readership than articles from Night Two, the top five for both nights shows three repeat articles and two new analysis pieces around Night One proceedings. If we were to reexamine our data later in the day today, we’d likely see a greater mix of Night One- and Night Two-related stories.

The Supporters

Finally, we again looked to emoji clouds, hashtags and top Tweets to get different perspectives around supporter reactions to the debates. 

The emoji clouds we generated for all three views were very similar, with only smaller changes readily apparent. For brevity’s sake, we have only included the combined emoji cloud for the Night One + Night Two view.

Night One

Top Hashtags

  1. #demdebate
  2. #democraticdebate
  3. #maga
  4. #kag
  5. #beto2020

While general hashtags take the top two spots, we see the rallying cry for Trump supporters – #maga (Make America Great Again) – take the number three spot. Its newer counterpart – #kag (Keep America Great) – comes in fourth, while Beto O’Rourke’s followers rallied to the number five spot. 

Top Tweets

Top tweets from Night One included a message from President Trump, a couple of “you had to be there” jokes and President Trump’s communications team hard at work.

1. President Trump inserts himself into the conversation

2. Comedian Trevor Noah strikes gold

3. Senator Lindsey Graham also tries his hand at comedy

4. President Trump’s Director of Communications reports live…

5. ….from the parking lot

Night Two

Top Hashtags

  1. #demdebate
  2. #demdebate2
  3. #democraticdebate
  4. #demdebate2020
  5. #yanggang

Night Two was dominated by a gaggle of general gathering hashtags, as well as one for supporters of Andrew Yang (the self-proclaimed “#yanggang”). Notably, unlike Night One, no hashtags in support of President Trump appeared in Night Two.

Top Tweets

After a strong showing in Night Two, Kamala Harris’ debate-adjacent tweets rocketed to the top two spots, while rival Pete Buttigieg also had his say. From the other camp, President Trump’s communications team and son both commented on the night’s proceedings, each taking slightly different tacts. 

1. Kamala Harris recalls her roots

2. Kamala Harris cuts through the noise

3. President Trump’s Director of Strategic Communications weighs in

4. Pete Buttigieg doesn’t separate church and state

5. Donald Trump Jr.’s take on the debate

Night One + Night Two

Emoji Cloud

As mentioned above, the emoji clouds for both nights were so similar that we thought it most expedient to show this combined view. In the debate preview blog, you’ll recall that the dominating emoji was the “rolling eyes” emoji, conveying a general sense of pessimism ahead of the debates. Now that we’re through to the other side, it seems like the American public has taken it all in good stride, with the dominant emoji now conveying laughter. 

The rest of the emoji cloud, viewed holistically, portrays the general mix of applause, patriotism, anger, confusion and random moments of levity expected from widely-broadcasted political events. 

Top Hashtags

  1. #demdebate
  2. #democraticdebate
  3. #demdebate2
  4. #maga
  5. #tulsi2020

Unsurprisingly, the joint view shows a mix of general hashtags, as well as the resurgence of hashtags powered by President Trump and Tulsi Gabbard’s supporters alike. 

Top Tweets

While we see a few familiar Tweets from Nights One and Two in this combined view, a hot take from a Twitter user in Topeka, Kansas takes the top spot.

1. A Twitter user’s take on Elizabeth Warren’s performance

2. Trevor Noah’s joke remains popular…

3. … as does President’s Trump message to his supporters

4. President Trump’s team continues its campaign

5. Kamala Harris keeps up with Night One


After a long debrief, let’s run through a quick recap.

Our analysis of candidate SOV (along with data from The Media and The Supporters lenses) showed that Tulsi Gabbard, while making only modest waves in her debate, saw strong online activity during and after the debate. Pre-debate favorite Elizabeth Warren mostly held her ground, while Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders faltered – or at least stepped back a bit. While many of the other 20 contenders made some movement up or down, most candidates stayed in similar positions to where they started. All, that is, except for Kamala Harris and Julián Castro, both of whom made significant upward strides due to their strong debate performances.

Trending media stories were generally as expected – a mix of analysis pieces, stories related to hot topics during the debate and an opinion piece or two. 

When it came to how supporters reacted to the debates, we saw early pessimism turned to humor and the enthusiastic embrace rallying hashtags, both neutral and candidate-specific. Candidates, campaign staffers and other well-known public figures dominated the most-shared Tweets, although one Twitter user was able to break through.

We should also note that President Trump’s supporters, obviously more unified that Democratic supporters at this point, came together to make their voice heard during the debates, as evidenced by top Tweets, hashtags and even trending stories.

Eager for more data-driven analysis around Election 2020? Keep an eye on our Resources page, where we’ll continue to publish data-driven analyses leading up to the election. In the meantime, to learn how media and data analytics can help guide your brand through the election cycle, check out our latest special report series or get in touch with our team to request a demo. 

“Night One” analyses leverage data from 8:00pm-11:59pm ET on June 26th.
“Night Two” analyses leverage data from 8:00pm-11:59pm ET on June 27th.
“Night One + Night Two” analyses leverage data from 8:00pm on June 26th  to 11:59pm ET on June 27th.