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Online Trends

Published October 23rd 2020

US Election 2020: The Impact of the Second Presidential Debate

Analyzing the social media highlights of the second US election debate of 2020.

Today, we’re digging into the online talking points from the second and final presidential debate of 2020.

Using our Consumer Research platform, we analyzed social media posts mentioning the candidates from 9pm EST – 10:40pm EST on October 22 2020.

Talking heads

During the live debate, the candidates were mentioned more than 5 million times on Twitter. Between the two candidates, Donald Trump had the most mentions (2.8 million), while Joe Biden registered 2.3 million.

You can see from the below minute-over-minute chart that Donald Trump dominated online conversations for most of the debate.

Donald Trump dominates online conversation during second debate

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research | 9pm EST - 10:40pm EST on October 22 2020.

Having said that, Biden’s conversation out-paced Trump’s twice:

  • 9:54pm EST — 32k mentions: Biden’s mentions outpaced Trump’s for three consecutive minutes, raking in 32k mentions for each 60-second interval. This was in response to Obamacare. Many people stated that Biden was “lying”, claiming that Obamacare caused them to lose their health insurance coverage. There were a lot of right-wing personalities (Ann Coulter, Dana Loesch, etc) with large followings perpetuating this conversation point.
  • 10pm EST — 36k mentions: This spike was a result of Biden’s response to Trump, when he started talking about Bernie Sanders’ influence on Democratic politics. Biden said about Trump, “He’s a confused guy. He doesn’t know who he’s running against. He’s running against Joe Biden.”

Otherwise, Trump’s mentions outpaced Biden’s all night.

The largest spike for Trump occurred at 10:23pm EST with nearly 53k mentions. This spike came on the heels of Biden’s remark where he sarcastically referred to Trump as a racist “Abraham Lincoln.” Trump felt the need to clarify that he never called himself Abraham Lincoln.

Vibe check

Sentiment-categorized mentions during the debate reflected the hostility. At no point did positive mentions outnumber negative mentions.

Conversation was negative for both presidential candidates during the second debate

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research | 9pm EST - 10:40pm EST on October 22 2020.

There were two large negative mention spikes towards the end of the debate. The first is in reference to Trump stating “I’m the least racist person in this room,” and the second aligns with the Abraham Lincoln exchange described above.

Overall, both candidates had near identical stats in terms of online sentiment during the debate time frame.

Biden’s was marginally more positive. Sentiment-segmented conversation revealed conversation to be 27.75% positive and 72.25% negative.

Trump’s sentiment-segmented conversation was 27.25% positive, and 72.75% negative.

Wrap up

Despite the “mute” button grabbing headlines this time around because of the interruptions and chaos in the first debate (there were 1,824 articles online about this according to BuzzSumo), it didn’t play a large factor in tonight’s online discussion – there were only around 150 mentions of it.

While this debate was billed as the biggest and most important for some time (because of the chaos of the first debate and the cancellation of the second because of coronavirus worries), it seems the jury is still out for many people on social media.

Make sure to subscribe to our US Election Bulletin to get the latest Brandwatch insights on the race straight to your inbox.

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