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Online Trends

Published January 18th 2016

React: Democratic Race Too Close to Call After NBC-YouTube Debate

Brandwatch analyzes discussion surrounding the Democratic Debate

On Sunday night, Charleston in South Carolina played host to the fourth democratic debate.

The pressure was on for the three candidates as this was their last chance to wow before voters have their say in the Iowa Caucus.

The debate hashtag, #DemDebate, received an enormous 680k Twitter mentions during the 2 hour showdown.


The candidates

Attention in the media has been focused on the two leaders of the democratic race so far, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

The pair dominated Twitter conversation, with Sanders accumulating 239,180 mentions.

Both are very different candidates who would become very different presidents, a fact that was apparent at the close of the debate.

Martin O’Malley occupied the third podium on-stage. The former Maryland Governor barely made the cut for the NBC News-YouTube debate and struggled at times to make himself heard over the voices of Sanders and Clinton.

The talking points

Just two hours before the debate started the Sanders camp released a proposed health care plan.

This was undeniably a clever move on Sander’s part as the topic was at the forefront of everyone’s mind, on and off stage, as the debate commenced.

Throughout the course of the two-hour live debate, health care was mentioned on Twitter over 32,000 times.

If social mentions bear any weight then the biggest moment of the night came when the discussion on Clinton’s ties with Wall Street was in full swing.

The former secretary of state adamantly defended Obama’s signature on the Dodd Frank Act and spoke passionately about it in the process.

This did not float with Sanders as the senator questioned her contributions from Wall Street investors and highlighted the injustices surrounding Wall Street and criminal action.

His rebuttal drove a 3,700 spike in mentions.

Topic dem debate 4

The live YouTube stream of the debate and the three guests who posed questions added an interesting element to the process.

While all three asked compelling questions, the most notable came from Conor Franta who wondered how the candidates would engage the younger voting demographic.

Clinton’s response was striking and Franta’s tweet thanking the former secretary of state was retweeted almost over 2,700 times.

This accounted for the highest peak in mentions (3,000) for the candidate throughout the debate.

The issue of gun control was hugely pertinent to this debate considering the location of the event.

This issue was discussed but it was slightly derailed when Sander’s flip-flopping on the topic came into play.

Gun control received 3,290 mentions and only 6% of the total online conversation when compared against the four other most discussed topics.

Interestingly, during last week’s GOP debate the same issue garnered a very similar 3,960 mentions.


Everything to play for

At the close of the debate each of the candidates fared well and similarly in terms of social sentiment.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 09.31.19

At times O’Malley fought fiercely to have his voice heard, and one of the most memorable moments for the candidate came when Donald Trump and his immigration policies were brought into question.

However, this did not drive the most mentions for the candidate as his polite – “Can I have 30 seconds too” – comment sent Twitter into a frenzy.  

One big takeaway from the night was the significant differences between Sanders and Clinton and their presidential aspirations.

Clinton is taking an evolutionarily approach, promising to build on the bricks laid by the Obama administration and elicit change through a strategy of strengthening.

On the other hand Sanders comes across in a more revolutionary manner,  reforming health care, changing the tax structure and addressing issues head on.

The next few weeks will be pivotal for all in the presidential race and those following it.

Check back here on the January 28th for our next instalment covering the Republican race.


Follow @bw_react for more hot data stories.


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