The 2020 Democratic Primaries
At Signal AI we’ve been tracking media coverage of the US Democratic Party presidential primaries – analysing media pieces from the largest set of sources in the world, in over 80 languages, crossing all sorts of media (print, online, and broadcast).
Using Artificial Intelligence, we’ve been able to track every time any candidate is referred to, even if not by name.
Between January 1 and May 31 total we’ve clocked 2,949,748 references to the major Democratic candidates, in 1,716,201 different news items. President Donald Trump, by comparison, has appeared in 8,184,437 pieces in the same period.
Over half (57.7%) of this coverage has been on four of the candidates: Sen. Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Sen. Kamala Harris.
|1||Sen. Bernie Sanders||528,190||13||Rep. Tulsi Gabbard||50,371|
|2||Joe Biden||525,456||14||John Hickenlooper||41,978|
|3||Sen. Elizabeth Warren||383,490||15||Rep. Eric Swalwell||32,322|
|4||Sen. Kamala Harris||264,632||16||John Delaney||28,085|
|5||Sen.Cory Booker||182,146||17||Rep. Tim Ryan||26,224|
|6||Beto O’Rourke||164,670||18||Sen. Michael Bennet||24,401|
|7||Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand||129,850||19||Gov. Steve Bullock||23,883|
|8||Sen. Amy Klobuchar||125,768||20||Andrew Yang||21,763|
|9||Mayor Pete Buttigieg||120,941||21||Rep. Seth Moulton||18,489|
|10||Mayor Bill de Blasio||102,305||22||Marianne Williamson||10,036|
|11||Gov. Jay Inslee||76,915||23||Mayor Wayne Messam||4,321|
|12||Julián Castro||60,961||24||Mike Gravel||2,551|
From June, we will be producing analysis of the Democratic presidential race on a regular basis. This analysis will look at things such as, sentiment towards the candidates, coverage in key states, and topic specific coverage.
|1||Sen. Elizabeth Warren||72,760|
|2||Sen. Bernie Sanders||62,529|
|3||Sen. Kamala Harris||55,468|
|5||Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand||27,275|
|7||Sen. Cory Booker||17,620|
|8||Rep. Tulsi Gabbard||16,967|
|9||Bill de Blasio||15,833|
Total Coverage (all candidates): 392,735
- Warren’s levels of coverage in January were driven up by being one of the earliest major politicians to announce,
- She formed an exploratory committee on December 31. This announcement was covered in almost 10,000 pieces.
- Unsurprisingly, we have found all candidates coverage increases significantly after announcing.
- The two most significant events of the month, in terms of coverage, were Gillibrand and Harris announcing their candidacies.
- Gillibrand’s announcement saw over 5,600 news items and Harris’ over 7,200.
|1 (+1)||Sen. Bernie Sanders||102,072|
|2 (-1)||Sen. Elizabeth Warren||87,679|
|3 (+0)||Sen. Kamala Harris||65,618|
|4 (+3)||Sen. Cory Booker||58,121|
|5 (-1)||Joe Biden||39,503|
|6 (+4)||Sen. Amy Klobuchar||37,521|
|7 (-2)||Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand||32,835|
|8 (+2)||Beto O’Rourke||24,821|
|9 (+0)||Bill de Blasio||23,498|
|10 (-2)||Rep. Tulsi Gabbard||11,770|
Total Coverage (all candidates): 524,294
- Sanders announcing was a big deal.
- Over 30,000 articles covered this news on the day and day following.
- This was over double (14,200) the coverage that Warren’s announcement (also in February) received.
- Since announcing, Sanders’ coverage has never been lower than 1,500 pieces each day.
- Bill de Blasio still made the top 10, despite being two and a half months from announcing.
- De Blasio’s role as Mayor of New York has generated high levels of coverage through the year.
- February has been the least significant month in the race so far.
|1 (+0)||Sen. Bernie Sanders||114,354|
|2 (+4)||Joe Biden||86,798|
|3 (-1)||Sen. Elizabeth Warren||72,659|
|4 (+4)||Beto O’Rourke||63,706|
|5 (-2)||Sen. Kamala Harris||44,803|
|6 (-2)||Sen. Cory Booker||35,835|
|7 (-1)||Sen. Amy Klobuchar||28,557|
|8 (-1)||Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand||28,133|
|9 (+2)||Gov. Jay Inslee||21,534|
|10 (+6)||John Hickenlooper||19,139|
|11 (-2)||Bill de Blasio||15,442|
|14 (-4)||Rep. Tulsi Gabbard||8,241|
Total Coverage (all candidates): 594,814
- March saw a transition away from people announcing candidacies to them establishing fundamental policy positions.
- O’Rourke’s early campaign was met by an excitement that (as we shall see) has not been sustained.
- Both his announcement and the release of his early campaigning finance figures were in the top 5 most covered events in March.
- Likewise, Hickenlooper has been unable to continue the levels of coverage that met his campaign launch.
- Since March, Hickenlooper has dropped well below our top 10.
- Even as early as February, the media was already fixating on the race in New Hampshire.
April (with Joe Biden)
April (without Joe Biden)
|1 (+1)||Joe Biden||222,381|
|2 (-1)||Sen. Bernie Sanders||152,935|
|3 (+0)||Sen. Elizabeth Warren||81,153|
|4 (+7)||Pete Buttigieg||54,390|
|5 (+0)||Sen. Kamala Harris||50,007|
|6 (-2)||Beto O’Rourke||37,240|
|7 (-1)||Sen. Cory Booker||35,361|
|8 (-1)||Sen. Amy Klobuchar||24,447|
|9 (-1)||Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand||20,145|
|10 (-1)||Gov. Jay Inslee||17,031|
|17 (-7)||John Hickenlooper||7,988|
Total Coverage (all candidates): 799,599
- Even Sanders’ campaign launch paled in comparison to Biden’s.
- On the day of announcement, 28,700 pieces covered this news. The day after, another 21,000 followed.
- This news alone generated more coverage than each of the following candidates have since the start of the year: Hickenlooper, Rep. Eric Swalwell, John Delaney, Rep. Tim Ryan, Sen. Michael Bennet, Gov. Steve Bullock, Andrew Yang, Rep. Seth Moulton, Marianne Williamson, Wayne Messam, and Mike Gravel.
- If Biden’s announcement was its own candidate, it would have been the 14th most covered.
- Hickenlooper fell hard.
- Whilst most candidates’ coverage is increasing month on month, Hickenlooper’s dropped by nearly 60% between March and April.
- Buttigieg’s coverage increased nearly fourfold from March to April (3.67x).
Total Coverage (all candidates): 628,306
- May (in our opinion) has been the most exciting month of the Democratic presidential race so far.
- We have moved out of the phase of candidates announcing.
- De Blasio’s announcement, with over 8,000 mentions, whilst the most covered event of the month, seems to have marked the end of this period.
- Candidates have begun taking firm stances on core policy areas.
- We have moved out of the phase of candidates announcing.
- The field is being forced to take stances on topical issues.
- It has been an absolute must for Democrats to vocally support abortion rights.
- In the wake of the Mueller report, a large portion of the candidates have openly called for impeachment proceedings to begin.
- O’Rourke’s campaign is at serious risk of flat-lining.
- Whilst he remains comfortably in the top 10, month on month his coverage has been decreasing – he has done little of note since releasing his early fund-raising figures.
You can find our June update here.
About the Index
Our index uses Artificial Intelligence so that we can track candidates as trained ‘entities’.
Traditionally, tracking has relied on imprecise keyword searches or clunky Boolean strings. This has issues. For example, searching for ‘John Delaney’ as a key word would surface content not only about Rep. John Delaney, but also John Delaney, the Chief Executive Officer of the Football Association of Ireland. Previous analysis, by other organisations, has relied on “a name appearing in a story” to count as a mention. This leads to inaccurate and incomplete research.
An ‘entity’ can be any organisation, individual, location, or event. In this case we have trained our AI to recognise any time the Democratic candidates are mentioned. It understands context, synonyms, antonyms, and can disambiguate similar or identical keywords. This allows us to capture a much more complete picture of the candidates. For example, our AI registers if Sen. Bernie Sanders has been referred to, regardless of how he is referred to – be it “Sanders, Sen. Sanders, ‘Crazy Bernie’, United States Senator from Vermont, etc.”
For more information on entities please see here.
Using entities allows us to build the most complete image of a candidate’s coverage in the world.
Signal is an apolitical, nonpartisan organisation. We research the primaries because they interest us, not in order to impact them. We are not responsible for how people use our work.