React: 7th GOP Debate Sees Trump Dominate Social Despite Absence Politics

By Emma Shanahan on January 29th 2016

The Republican candidates squared off for a seventh time on Thursday evening.

As the last time the candidates take to the stage before the Iowa Caucus, it was always going to be an important debate.

People may have noticed the Donald Trump shaped hole on stage – Trump boycotted the debate after a feud with Fox News.

This, however, did not slow down the Trump support on Twitter, the candidate was mentioned more than everyone on stage – over 140,000 times.


Present in spirit but not in body

The Fox News moderators did not dance around the fact that Trump did not grace them with his presence as Megyn Kelly’s first question addressed “the elephant not in the room“.

This served as a perfect chance for the candidates to take a stab at Trump safe in the knowledge there would be no immediate rebuttal.

Rubio and Cruz made scathing remarks while Bush quipped that Donald Trump was “little teddy bear to me”.

These opening remarks garnered more than 40,000 mentions collectively.


Polls vs. social data

The three forerunners in the polls – Trump, Cruz and Rubio – did not get to battle it out on stage but Cruz and Rubio had an impactful presence during the debate.

The biggest moment of the night for Cruz came when he criticized the Fox News moderators for asking ‘mean’ questions and threatened to leave the stage. This caused a spike in mentions of 3,100 in one minute.

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On the other hand Rubio sent waves crashing through Twitter when he took aim at Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders, noting that his socialist viewpoints would serve him well as president of Sweden.

These moments accounted for the the two biggest increases in mention volume while the third went to Rand Paul.

This came when the senator commented on the effect of the war on drugs on the African American community, which garnered a spike of 2,400 mentions at 9:45 pm ET.


Let’s talk topics

The debate on foreign policy was one of the first introduced on Thursday night.

The heated debate surrounding ISIS and what America can do to combat the global issue accounted for 20% of the overall conversation.

This was somewhat overshadowed when the topic of immigration was introduced as the issue registered a whopping 17,000 mentions and accounted for the majority (45%) of the conversation.

The use of video clips that showed some of the candidates previously having contradictory views on immigration only added fuel to this online fire.

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The political issue that dominated most conversations surrounding candidates was immigration, but people discussing Chris Christie, John Kasich and Ted Cruz online appeared to favor talking about health care.

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Social’s opinion

At the close of the debate we looked at the online sentiment for each of the candidates. This analysis put Paul as the forerunner with a lead of 11%.

For anyone that watched the debate this is not surprising seeing as the onsite audience erupted every time Paul answered a question.

Social data reigns supreme here at Brandwatch so it is important to note that even though Cruz and Rubio registered the most impressions during the debate, 133 million and 127 million respectively, Donald Trump’s Twitter handle was the most mentioned.

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We all wait with baited breath for the results of the Iowa Caucus when voters will get their first chance to voice their opinion. In the meantime be sure to consult our Presidential Election 2016 data viz for the latest social data.



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Emma Shanahan

Emma is a Product Marketing Manager in the Brandwatch Brighton office. She hates talking about herself in the third person, but loves traveling, coming home again, and popcorn.