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Online Trends

Published October 20th 2016

Political Showdown: Social Media Reacts to the Third Presidential Debate

The Brandwatch React team monitored live reaction on social media to the historic debate. Read the social data review in charts and numbers here.

The third and final presidential debate was just as lively as we have come to expect from the 2016 candidates. Foreign affairs, taxes, immigration, vote rigging, respect for women: there was a lot to get through.

While the final presidential debate aired live on American television, Donald Trump accumulated more than 1.2 million mentions on Twitter. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, received a little over 809,000 mentions.


(The above chart uses a 10% sample of mentions, from 9pm EST – 10:37 pm EST on October 19, 2016)

However, this debate saw a phenomenon that has not occurred in any other presidential debate in 2016. That phenomenon was a positive conversation for one of the candidates: Hillary Clinton.

For the first time during the debates, over 50% of the conversation was positive for one of the candidates, with Hillary gaining 53.8% positive within sentiment-categorized mentions. Trump’s sentiment was negative at 62.4%


Clinton’s positive sentiment was due to the substance of her responses, and her defense of women. The phrase “defend women” was featured prominently in her positive mentions.

When we examine each candidate’s mentions minute-by-minute we can see how Trump’s conversation was always larger than Clinton’s. Let’s look at each candidate’s most talked about moments.


  1. 9:57pm EST – nearly 21,000 mentions.
    These mentions were in response to Trump saying “No one respects women more than I do” which was met with audible laughs from the audience.
  2. 9:35pm EST – over 18,500 mentions.
    These mentions focus on Trump’s comments on Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
  3. 10:22pm EST – over 18,500 mentions.
    These mentions focus on Trump’s off-hand comment of wishing Clinton luck in dealing with terrorists in the Middle East.


  1. 9:51pm EST – over 12,200 mentions.
    Many of these mentions focus on Clinton’s retort when she said that Trump shipped jobs to Mexico.
  2. 10:12pm EST – over 12,100 mentions.
    These mentions were in reaction to Clinton saying that Trump claimed the Emmy’s were rigged.
  3. 10:20pm EST – over 11,700 mentions.
    These mentions focus on Clinton saying that Trump is the most dangerous person to run for president.

(The above chart uses a 10% sample of mentions, from 9pm EST – 10:37 pm EST on October 19, 2016)

When we examine candidate mentions across gender, we see that women hold the majority of mentions for both candidates. Women contributed 56% of Clinton’s conversation and 54.6% of Trump’s.


The issues that received the most mentions within each candidate’s discussion were Foreign Affairs, Taxes and Immigration.


In another very telling data point, despite the fact that Trump’s Twitter handle was used more, Hillary Clinton’s handle actually accrued far more impressions.

Trump’s handle was mentioned, properly, over 816,000 times for more than 7.3 billion impressions. Clinton’s handle was used only 691,000 times but had over 10.1 billion impressions. This data point suggests that the people talking about Hillary Clinton are more influential with more followers on Twitter.


(The above chart uses a 10% sample of mentions, from 9pm EST – 10:37 pm EST on October 19, 2016)

So that’s the presidential debates all wrapped up. We’re sure there will be plenty of twists and turns still to come before November 8. For up to date coverage of how social media is responding to the latest news, head over to our US Presidential Election Live Data hub.

Are you a journalist looking to cover our data? We have plenty more. Email us [email protected] for more information

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