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Online Trends

Published March 10th 2016

React: Candidates Fail to Impress Social During 8th #DemDebate

Brandwatch analyzes online conversation surrounding the 8th Democratic Debate

Miami, Florida played host to the latest Democratic debate on Thursday night in which candidates failed to impress the online audience.

The deliberations were co-hosted by Univision and CNN with the topics of immigration and Latino rights expected to be at the forefront of the debate.

The results from the Mississippi and Michigan primaries were fresh in everyone’s minds going into the debate, especially as Sanders caused a big upset in Michigan where he won by a fraction of the vote.

Many sources claimed that the debate on Sunday framed the results of these primaries so it will be interesting to see what effect last night has on the proceeding votes.

Immigration Reform

Both candidates noted their commitment to a comprehensive immigration reform plan in their opening statements and this topic carried through into the first thirty minutes of the debate. Both Democratic candidates said they were “adamantly” opposed to illegal immigration.

The topic dominated the social conversation for the majority of the first half of the debate and received over 13,000 social mentions in relation the candidates.

While Donald Trump’s wall bordering Mexico came into play it was the topic of child deportation that got the most airtime, both online and onstage.

At 9:59 pm ET the term “deport children” garnered over 4,580 mentions on Twitter.

Considering that this debate was hosted in Miami the topic of climate change was on the tip of everyone’s tongues. But, while the issue was brought to the table the discussion did not transfer onto social media as it commanded only 12% of the conversation compared with the other main topics we tracked, totalling 3,980 mentions on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 11.22.17

Foreign policy (4,750) and healthcare (5,230) were, yet again, two of the leading topics of the night.  

How the candidates performed

The debate moderators did not waste any time getting to the point.

They hit Hillary Clinton with straight shooting questions ranging from the her “astounding upset” in Michigan to her emails and Benghazi.

One of her defining moments of the night came when she was asked if she thought Donald Trump was a racist. The former secretary of state denounced his anti-immigration rhetoric and even threw in some Spanish flair by saying “basta!” to the controversial Republican candidate.


If we look at the biggest spikes in conversation during the debate it’s clear Sanders dominated.

The largest spike by far came following a question in relation to Clinton’s reluctance to release her speech transcripts, and whether or not she had something to hide.

Following an intense exchange Sanders exclaimed, “Madame secretary, I will match my record with yours any day of the week”.

“An Upset”

Something unusual happened in this debate that has not yet occurred in the presidential race.

First of all, both candidates closed the debate with negative social sentiment but even more notable is the fact that Sanders finished second to Clinton in the sentiment poll.

Roughly half an hour into the debate Sanders’ sentiment was 64% positive and just over thirty minutes later this had dropped by 41% leaving the candidate trending negatively.

We cannot say definitively what caused this pretty drastic drop but it is curious as the Vermont Senator received a standing ovation following his closing statement.

By the end of the debate, Sanders’ sentiment had recovered somewhat to 39% positive, but this was still 6% behind Hillary Clinton.

We’re bang in the middle of March madness so be sure to keep up with all the social data over at our Presidential Election 2016 data viz and follow @BW_React for more juicy data.


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