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Published September 27th 2016

React: The First Presidential Debate in Four Social Data Charts

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 first Presidential debate will go down in history as a key evening in the 2016 US presidential election.

It was the first time the candidates met face-to-face to debate the important issues, and the first opportunity voters had to compare them side-by-side.

Both spoke passionately about their credentials for the job and their very different visions for America’s future, but what moments jumped out on social media?

The Brandwatch React team broke down around 6 million mentions of the debate to find out.

The key moments

Hype grew for the debates throughout the day and both candidates posted teaser tweets ahead of the debate, sending mentions rocketing.

The debate was so full of tweetable soundbites social media had to scramble to keep up and while the live audience was told to be quiet, no one was holding back on Twitter.

The React team tweeted some of the key quotes in the early stages, but then what seemed like a considerable mention spike in the early minutes was later an insignificant bump. At one moment in the debate Trump received over 30k mentions in a single minute.

Here are a few of the key moments that caught social’s attention during the debate.


Clinton’s Twitter account did a good job of getting her in-debate quotes out there and retweeted, meaning fairly lengthy quotes made it into the top mentioned phrases.

Meanwhile Trump’s team of “deplorables” steered away from long Trump quotes and provided emotive commentary.

Examining the topics, we found taxes were an enormous part of the conversation and with Trump refusing to disclose his tax returns until Clinton revealed her alleged 30k deleted emails it was the subject of fiery exchanges on the stage. Foreign affairs was another hot topic debated intensely by the candidates and on social media.

Fact-checking was a huge part of the conversation, and pointing out errors in candidates’ statements was a central part of the debate on and off stage. The Clinton campaign stung Donald Trump by retweeting a tweet from 2012 that took off in the early moments, earning them 77k retweets.

The candidates

Mentions wise, Trump made up around 60% of the Twitter candidate mentions. This isn’t unusual – he’s consistently generated more mentions than his opponents throughout the race. Looking at location made no difference – he received more mentions than Hillary in every single state.


Both of their official Twitter accounts were at the top of the “most mentioned” list, and they both generated over 800,000,000 impressions each during the debate.

Breaking the candidate mentions down by gender, both candidates were being discussed by female authors at a higher rate than males with Clinton generating slightly more female mentions overall.


Who won?

Volumes may have seen Trump generating the most tweets, but looking deeper at the mentions the story of the most successful candidate is different.

Breaking down mentions of each candidate categorized as positive or negative, it looks like Clinton clinched it.


Donald Trump won’t be pleased.

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

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