Last night, the top 10 Democratic candidates seeking the presidency in 2020 took the stage in Houston, with a long-awaited showdown between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren finally on the cards, along with a host of other issues.

As with the previous debates, we examined debate mentions over the past two days (more than 1.2 million at the time of writing) and analyzed them through three main lenses: 1) The Candidates;  2) The Media and 3) The Supporters.

Here’s how the Internet reacted to the third presidential debate:

The Candidates

In our debate preview blog, we analyzed how the 10 candidates were faring in Share of Voice (SOV) in the week leading up to the debate, with Bernie Sanders emerging as the leader with 24% SOV.  

Here’s how the numbers have changed since then:

SOV numbers for each candidate are as follows – Beto O’Rourke: 16%; Andrew Yang: 16%; Bernie Sanders: 14%; Joe Biden: 14%; Elizabeth Warren: 13%; Kamala Harris: 10%;  Pete Buttigieg: 6%; Julián Castro: 4%; Cory Booker: 3%; and Amy Klobuchar: 3%. 

Beto O’Rourke emerged as the surprise leader in SOV – a fact that is attributable less to his performance in the debate than to a story about a Texas State Rep threatening O’Rourke on Twitter over his stance on guns (spurred by O’Rourke’s “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” comment during the debate.)

Andrew Yang generated the second most buzz, largely in response to an announcement he made on stage about his campaign paying 10 families $1,000 a month throughout the election – an idea intended to highlight his campaign stance on Universal Basic Income, but that has been perceived in some quarters as a direct attempt to buy votes.

Elsewhere, the Big 3 candidates – Biden, Sanders and Warren – each received similar levels of SOV, a fact that underlines the lack of a single “showdown” or defining moment between them.

The rest of the ten candidates saw 10% SOV or less, even Castro, whose approach of aggressively criticizing Biden didn’t quite seem to garner him the attention he was hoping to receive. 

The Media

Here’s a look at the five most popular debate-related articles during and after the event:

  1. 3rd Democratic debate: Candidates clashed on health care, immigration and more | ABC News
  2. Trump campaign to counter Dems’ debate by flying massive banner blasting socialism | ABC News
  3. Andrew Yang 2020 |
  4. Snopes Issues Pre-Approval Of All Statements Made During Tonight’s Democratic Debate | The Babylon Bee
  5. Greenpeace protesters taken into custody after rappelling from Fred Hartman bridge | Chron

ABC News scored the top two debate-related articles, with a recap and a piece on an unusual attempt by the Trump team to one-up the debate with a flying banner. Similarly, a debate-related Greenpeace publicity stunt also made the top five. 

Andrew Yang’s campaign also seems to have received a boost from his on-stage promises, with his campaign website emerging as the third-most-popular debate-related site, while the Babylon Bee once again enjoyed a traffic boost thanks to a satirical article it produced for a previous debate.

The Supporters

Finally, as an indicator of how supporters perceived the third presidential debate, here are the top hashtags and tweets of the night.

For the Top Hashtags list, please note that we removed generic debate hashtags (including #demdebate, #democraticdebate, #demdebate2, #democraticdebate2020, #demdebates and #election2020, among others) to better focus the lists and surface more candidate- and issue-specific hashtags.

Top Hashtags

  1. #YangGang
  2. #AndrewYang
  3. #ISupportYang
  4. #MedicareForAll
  5. #BoycottABC

If elections were measured by hashtag frequency, Andrew Yang would be the clear frontrunner after last night. Following the same pattern as the last two debates, his supporters took to Twitter and Instagram with stories of why they prefer their candidate, elevating #YangGang, #AndrewYang and #ISupportYang to the top three slots during and after the debate.

#MedicareForAll – a key issue of the night – was the only policy proposal to make the list, while an ad depicting Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in flames led to calls to #BoycottABC.

Top Tweets

With the exception of one tweet about Andrew Yang, none of the top tweets during and since the debate have had anything to do with issues raised on stage, or even the candidates. To wit: a tweet about ABC’s much-maligned AOC ad led the way, while Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale’s tweet about the aforementioned socialism banner publicity stunt closed out the top five. 

In between, actor Terrence K. Williams provided two of the top tweets of the night in response to the debate, while fellow conservative activist Scott Presler also had a viral moment that leveraged the #DemDebate hashtag without actually commenting on the debate itself.

1. @Funder defends @AOC

2. Terrence Williams gets saucy

3. Hashtag hijack

4. Williams cashes in on Yang again

5. Parscale’s publicity push


Perhaps the key takeaway from last night’s debate is the lack of a viral moment for any of the major candidates. Andrew Yang came closest to achieving that, and certainly seems to have driven a lot of interest in his campaign website. However, as the top tweets demonstrate, it’s not clear that his improved SOV is entirely positive.

On the whole, the leading candidates going into the evening had something of a quiet – or at least balanced – night. And, Yang aside, none of the other candidates who had been struggling for SOV going into the debate saw much improvement.


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